Pakistani Taliban advance beyond Swat
They have taken control of Buner next door and made forays into two more districts.
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The fall of Buner comes at a sensitive time for the government, which is trying to maintain a controversial peace deal with the Swat Taliban that was negotiated by hard-line cleric Sufi Mohammad. The government agreed to impose Nizam-e-Adl regulations, a form of Islamic law, or sharia, in the area if the Taliban stopped fighting their troops.Skip to next paragraph
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But since President Asif Ali Zardari and the National Assembly officially approved the deal last week, militants in Swat have declared that no other Pakistani courts have jurisdiction over the area and have refused to put down their guns.
On Sunday, Mohammad sparked further controversy nationwide when he declared at a rally in Mingora, the capital of Swat, that there is "no room for democracy" in Islam – raising concern that the Taliban aim to impose their interpretation of sharia well beyond the northwest.
"They are now threatening to get out of Swat and take other areas into their custody. So, we've got to avoid that situation," former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who has in the past gained popularity for his anti-American stances, told USA Today Tuesday.
Critics of the Swat agreement have called it "appeasement."
"If [the Taliban] manage to consolidate their influence here [in Buner] they will play the politics of falling dominoes," says Mr. Hussain, the analyst. "Sufi Mohammad made it clear in his speech – they are targeting the whole of Pakistan."
And if the government continues to make deals with the Taliban, Hussain continues, they may be tempted "to go for the jugular" and lay siege to the city of Peshawar.
'We will not lose hope'
But provincial legislators of the Awami National Party, which governs the NWFP, appear more keen on keeping the peace going.
"We will not lose hope. The peace in Ireland took 30 years; we're asking for 30 weeks," says Haji Adeel, senior vice president of the ANP. He says that the government has sent for eight platoons of Frontier Constabulary, a paramilitary force, to patrol Buner, but adds that the basic problem is the Taliban expect too much, too soon.
"They [the Taliban] don't understand we need time and money to meet their demands to create and staff sharia courts. Sufi Mohammad doesn't understand the way bureaucracy works."
He adds: "So far, the Taliban haven't kept to their side of the bargain. We were expecting everyone to lay down arms and live like decent and ordinary citizens, to act according to the rules."