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Pakistani forces move against Taliban

The tenuous peace deal with the militants comes under increasing strain as Taliban take areas closer to Pakistan’s capital.

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"Events in Punjab like the cricket attack [in Lahore], the siege of Manawan police academy, and the suicide bombing of the police station in Chakwal [close to Islamabad] have awoken a lot of those members of the National Assembly from Punjab who before this viewed it as a problem of the Frontier," she says, in a veiled reference to the PML-N party of opposition leader of Nawaz Sharif who, with its power-base in Punjab, had previously been seen as attempting to appeal to religious constituencies by remaining ambivalent over the threat posed by the Taliban.

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Now, however, Ms. Ispahani sees "a coherence between major institutions of the state as well as the media. They seem to be on the same page."

On Sunday, peace talks in Buner held between provincial lawmakers and local elders ended indecisively after Taliban members abstained from attending despite being invited, according to the Pakistani TV network, Geo.

In another display of increasing tension, interior ministry advisor Rehman Malik appeared on television to blame the Taliban for the killing of 11 children by a homemade bomb disguised as a toy in a village in Lower Dir on Sunday.

Taliban not fulfilling their end of the deal?

"What the Taliban did in Buner was against our agreement," laments Haji Adeel, vice president of the Awami National Party which governs the North West Frontier Province. Mr. Adeel complains that despite concessions to the Taliban, such as parliament's ratification of the use of Islamic law in the Malakand division (which includes Swat and Buner), their demands have only grown while they have refused to lay down arms.

"We're not in favor of a military response – first will be dialogue," Adeel says. "[Force] is there as a last resort."

That last resort may be drawing closer according to Ismail Khan, the Peshawar bureau chief of The Dawn, a leading English-language daily. "The next seven to 10 days will be a crucial phase, as the government will by then open the appellate sharia [Islamic] courts in Peshawar," which are a long-standing demand of the Swat Taliban. Once these courts are in place, any further violations of the agreement will be viewed very dimly, says Mr. Khan.

"It's clear that all parties are now running out of patience with Sufi Mohammad," Khan says, referring to the spiritual leader of the Swat Taliban. "He is fast burning the proverbial lamp oil."

Zardari heads to Washington

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