PESHAWAR, Pakistan – “˜I have resigned. I will never go to my job as I don’t want my parents to be sent my body,” said a woman in a northwest Pakistan district from which the Taliban claimed to have withdrawn.
The woman, who called herself only Hafsa, said she worked for a charity until the Taliban advanced into Buner, just 100 kilometres (62 miles) from Islamabad, from the neighbouring district of Swat, which was torn apart by a nearly two-year Islamist insurgency.
Fear and uncertainty reigned in Buner on Saturday despite what the hardline movement trumpeted as a withdrawal to Swat””just the other side of the mountains””to shore up a deal to enforce Islamic law there.
“˜People are scared,” said local resident Nisar Khan.
“˜We used to see women going to their offices before the Taliban arrived in the area, but today they did not go to their jobs,” he added.
“˜Shops are open and there are no signs of armed Taliban patrolling streets in Buner but people face uncertainty and fear that they may come back,” Khan told AFP by telephone from the district.
People were reluctant to go to markets and other public places, as women stayed away from their workplaces and girl students stayed at home on the morning after the pull back, witnesses said.
The government deployed up to 300 extra paramilitary police to secure Buner but Taliban elements were still present, local police said.
Banners, which were strung up in Buner town after the Taliban moved in telling women not to go to markets, still flapped in the wind Saturday, said one resident, on condition of anonymity.
Jam Sher Khan, who works for a local non-governmental organisation, said the Taliban had forcefully occupied his office in Buner.
“˜Now they have left but our office is still locked and we will not resume duty until authorities provide us security,” he said.
A Taliban commander said after his men entered Buner that they would set up strict Islamic sharia courts, as they have done in Swat.
Both Buner and Swat fall within Malakand, a district of some three million people in North West Frontier Province where President Asif Ali Zardari has ratified an agreement to enforce sharia law in exchange for peace.
“˜Female staff in my office as well as schools and colleges did not turn up today,” said deputy district education officer, Mohammad Sahib.
Some people were grateful that the threat of a military operation to flush out the Taliban had been averted””at least for now….