Army soldiers faced off with Taliban militants on Friday after Pakistani paramilitary troops arrived in Buner in a bid to regain command after the Taliban seized control of the district earlier this week.
Reporting from Islamabad, FRANCE 24’s Anne-Isabelle Tolle says up to 300 Pakistani paramilitary troops arrived in Buner, some 100 kilometres northwest of the capital, on Thursday. The troops have regained control of local police stations although Taliban fighters continue to patrol the streets.
In recent days, hundreds of armed Taliban fighters set up checkpoints, occupied mosques and began patrolling Buner, warning its residents not to engage in “un-Islamic” activities and banning women from public places.
The latest confrontation comes as a Taliban regional spokesman says the Islamist group has plans to leave the district.
“Our leader has ordered that Taliban should immediately be called back from Buner,” Muslim Khan told Reuters.
The Taliban advance comes after the group’s leadership in the Swat valley struck a deal with the Pakistani government earlier this month to establish Sharia law in the valley in exchange for a ceasefire.
But FRANCE 24’s Stephen Kloss says that, despite this agreement, the government and the Taliban may be on a collision course. The Taliban insists that the rulings of Swat’s Sharia courts cannot be challenged; the government insists that all courts in the country fall under the purview of Pakistan’s Supreme Court.
While the Pakistani government is trying to downplay these problems, Kloss says it is well aware the pressure is mounting.
“Trouble is ahead,” he says.