Militants in Pakistan have ambushed paramilitary forces who were being
rushed to a region near the capital that was recently overrun by
Taliban forces from the nearby Swat valley. Witnesses say gunmen in
Buner district, killed at least one of the paramilitary troops.
Despite the latest clashes, political leaders say they continue to
favor diplomacy in dealing with the militants.
Troops take up key positions
Locals in Buner
district, which is only about 100 kilometers from the Pakistani
capital, say security forces began arriving Wednesday, taking up
positions around government buildings and key roads. It is unclear how
many additional forces have been ordered to Buner. Local officials say
as many as eight platoons, or about 400 paramilitary troops have
arrived in the mountainous region.
Sher Akbar, a retired
lawmaker who represented Buner in parliament, tells VOA that Taliban
fighters are now patrolling parts of the district and local police have
not been seen in public.
Taliban controls Buner
Speaking by phone from Buner he says
the Taliban are totally in control of the district and the local
government has lost authority over the region.
media have reported government officials and aid groups have abandoned
local offices. Sher Akbar says many in Buner are worried that fighting
could break out soon between security forces and militants, and some
people are preparing to leave.
Groups of militants infiltrated
Buner last week, shortly after the government signed a peace deal to
establish Islamic law in nearby Swat valley and other parts of the
northwest. Local officials estimate more than 500,000 people live in
the Buner area.
Since the Taliban's arrival, fighters have
clashed with local police and armed tribal militias that initially
tried to repel them from the area. Local leaders had reportedly asked
the provincial government earlier for extra police and paramilitary
troops when the controversial peace agreement in Swat was being
negotiated but the request was ignored.
Clinton: situation poses 'mortal threat' to US
The government's peace
agreement in the northwest, and subsequent Taliban expansion into
nearby areas including Buner, has drawn intense concern in Washington.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused the Pakistani
government of ceding more and more territory to the Taliban. She said
the deteriorating situation poses what she called a "mortal threat" to
the United States and the world.
"I think that we cannot
underscore the seriousness of the existential threat posed to the state
of Pakistan by the continuing advances, now within hours of Islamabad,
that are being made by the loosely confederated group of terrorists and
others who are seeking the overthrow of the Pakistani state, which is,
as we all know, a nuclear-armed state," she said.
Pakistan defends anti-Taliban strategy
about the criticism on Thursday, Pakistan's prime minister defended the
government's strategy, saying officials continue to favor pursuing
talks with mediator Sufi Muhammad in dealing with the situation.
case peace is not restored, then naturally the mandate is the
provincial government - they will discuss with the jirga, with all of
the political forces of their province, they will discuss with Sufi
Muhammad. And if the provincial government decides otherwise or if
peace is not restored, certainly we have to review our policy," said
Prime Minister Gilani.
The Islamic courts have drawn
criticism among lawmakers in recent days after Taliban fighters refused
to disarm and Sufi Muhammad said militants believe the new courts will
not be integrated into Pakistan's legal system. Political leaders have
said the creation of a parallel legal system is unacceptable and a
violation of the peace agreement.