Pakistani Taliban fighters are reportedly re-entering Buner, hours after they pulled back from the district just 100km away from the capital Islamabad.
Hoda Abdel Hamid, Al Jazeera’s correspondent reporting from Pakistan, said there were reports of about 100 Taliban fighters heading back to Buner from the neighbouring Swat valley on Friday evening.
Earlier during the day, the Taliban had appeared to withdraw from the district, a day after its fighters clashed with regional forces, leaving one policemen dead.
“Our leader has ordered that Taliban should immediately be called back from Buner,” Muslim Khan, a Pakistan Taliban spokesman, had said.
The group’s move into Buner had alarmed the Pakistan government over what the Taliban’s future intentions might be.
Meanwhile, General Ashfaq Kayani, Pakistan’s army chief, has sought to dispel doubts that the country’s armed forces were reluctant to take on the fighters.
The army “will not allow the militants to dictate terms to the government or impose their way of life on the civil society of Pakistan”, he said in a statement after a meeting of high-level military commanders on Friday.
Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistani president, ratified a deal in April to put Malakand – home to about three million people in northwest Pakistan, including the district of Buner – under sharia, or Islamic law, as part of efforts to end a Taliban revolt.
Critics who attacked the Swat deal on the grounds that the government “capitulation” would only embolden the Taliban, have said that the fighters’ entry into Buner vindicates their fears.
Indeed. Another report confirms that “local” Taliban remain in Buner. Note the Taliban’s pledge not to “exhibit” their weapons. It’s not exactly disarmament. “Taliban “˜leave” Pakistan district, US warns of attacks,” from Agence France-Presse, April 25:
[…] Officials confirmed the Taliban “withdrawal” but said local Taliban remained in Buner. Neither did the Taliban show any sign of lessening their grip on neighbouring Swat, a former tourist resort plunged into brutal insurgency.
“I do not know the exact number of my men who left the area but they all boarded in 15 vehicles to return to Swat,” said Muslim Khan, the main Taliban spokesman in the area who presented the “withdrawal” as a goodwill gesture.
“We have withdrawn from Buner to show our commitment to make the peace deal a success,” Khan said referring to a controversial agreement to enforce Islamic law in part of northwest Pakistan in exchange for an end to fighting in Swat.
He did not disclose how many “local Taliban” remained in Buner. […]
The Taliban has shown no sign of disarming as demanded by the government.
“We will not exhibit arms as part of the deal. But our government should stop its policy of appeasing the US,” the Taliban spokesman said. […]