Official Version of FATA History
The areas that today make up FATA were once part of the battleground on which the Great Game of imperial domination was played out in the 19th century. For the British colonial administrators of India, effective control of the region was imperative for the defense of their Indian possessions, serving as a bulwark against Russian expansionism in Central Asia. It proved difficult, however, for the colonial government to establish its writ in the tribal areas.
Colonial administrators oversaw but never fully controlled the region through a combination of British-appointed agents and local tribal elders. The people were free to govern internal affairs according to tribal codes, while the colonial administration held authority in what were known as protected and administered areas over all matters related to the security of British India.
Although various tribes cooperated with the British off and on in return for financial incentives (Abbas, 2006), this quid pro quo arrangement was never completely successful. Throughout the latter half of the 19th century, British troops were embroiled in repeated battles with various tribes in the area .Between 1871 and 1876, the colonial administration imposed a series of laws, the Frontier Crimes Regulations, prescribing special procedures for the tribal areas, distinct from the criminal and civil laws that were in force elsewhere in British India. These regulations, which were based on the idea of collective territorial responsibility and provided for dispute resolution to take place through a jirga (council of elders), also proved to be inadequate.
Frustrated in their efforts to subdue the region, the British in 1901 issued a new Frontier Crimes Regulation that expanded the scope of earlier regulations and awarded wide powers, including judicial authority, to administrative officials. In the same year, a new administrative unit, the North-West Frontier Province, was created by carving out parts of the then Punjab province and adding certain tribal principalities. The province, as it was constituted at the time, included five settled districts (Bannu, Dera Ismail Khan, Hazara, Kohat and Peshawar) and five tribal agencies (Dir-Swat-Chitral, Khyber, Kurram, North Waziristan and South Waziristan), and was placed under the administrative authority of a chief commissioner reporting to the Governor-General of India (Hunter et al., 1840-1900).
The institution of the political agent was created at this time. Each agency was administered by a political agent who was vested with wide powers and provided funds to secure the loyalties of influential elements in the area. It was also during this period that the maliki system was developed to allow the colonial administration to exercise control over the tribes. Under this system, local chiefs (maliks) were designated as intermediaries between the members of individual tribes and the colonial authorities, and assisted in the implementation of government policies (GoP, undated [a]).
Despite these efforts, bolstered by repeated military campaigns, the colonial administration retained what was at best a tenuous hold on the area until the British quit India in 1947. Soon after Independence, the various tribes in the region entered into an agreement with the government of Pakistan, pledging allegiance to the newly created state. Some 30 instruments of accession were subsequently signed, cementing this arrangement. To the tribal agencies of Khyber, Kurram, North Waziristan and South Waziristan were later added Mohmand Agency (in 1951), and Bajaur and Orakzai (in 1973).
Accession did not subsume the political autonomy of the tribes. The instruments of accession, signed in 1948, granted the tribal areas a special administrative status. Except where strategic considerations dictated, the tribal areas were allowed to retain their semi-autonomous status, exercising administrative authority based on tribal codes and traditional institutions. This unique system, given varying degrees of legal cover in each of the country earlier constitutions, was crystallized in Pakistan Constitution of 1973.
Wikipedia version of FATA History
The region was annexed in the 19th century during the British colonial period, and though the British never succeeded in completely calming unrest in the region, it afforded them some protection from Afghanistan. The British Raj attempted to control the population of the annexed tribal regions with the Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR), which allowed considerable power to govern to local nobles so long as these nobles were willing to meet the needs of the British. Due to the unchecked discretionary power placed into the hands of the jirga put into place by these nobles and to the human rights violations that ensued, the FCR has come to be known as the "black law." The annexed areas continued under the same governance after the Partition of India, through the Dominion of Pakistan in 1946 and into the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in 1956.
According to the United States Institute of Peace, the character of the region underwent a shift beginning in the 1980s with the entry into the region of the Mujahideen and CIA Operation Cyclone, against the Soviet Union prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall and collapse of Soviet Union.
In 2001, the Tehrik-e-Taliban militants began entering into the region. In 2003, Taliban forces sheltered in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas began crossing the border into Afghanistan, attacking military and police. Shkin, Afghanistan is a key location for these frequent battles. This heavily fortified military base has housed mostly American special operations forces since 2002 and is located just six kilometers from the Pakistani border. It is considered the most dangerous location in Afghanistan. With the encouragement of the United States, 80,000 Pakistani troops entered the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in March 2004 to search for al-Qaeda operatives. They were met with fierce resistance from Pakistani Taliban. It was not the elders, but the Pakistani Taliban who negotiated a truce with the army, an indication of the extent to which the Pakistani Taliban had taken control. Troops entered the region, into South Waziristan and North Waziristan eight more times between 2004 and 2006 and faced further Pakistani Taliban resistance. Peace accords entered into in 2004 and 2006 set terms whereby the tribesmen in the area would stop attacking Afghanistan and the Pakistanis would halt major military actions against the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, release all prisoners, and permit tribesmen to carry small guns. In 2007 the Pakistani Taliban in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas became officially known under the name Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan.
On June 4, 2007, the National Security Council of Pakistan met to decide the fate of Waziristan and take up a number of political and administrative decisions to control "Talibanization" of the area. The meeting was chaired by President Pervez Musharraf and it was attended by the Chief Ministers and Governors of all four provinces. They discussed the deteriorating law and order situation and the threat posed to state security. To crush the armed militancy in the Tribal regions and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the government decided to intensify and reinforce law enforcement and military activity, take action against certain madrassahs, and jam illegal FM radio stations.