ISLAMABAD: Pakistan yesterday sent troops to Buner to halt the advance of the Taliban from the area to Kaladhaka, 70 km from the federal capital of Islamabad. But paramilitary forces rushing to the area were met with gunfire that killed one soldier. With the help of Tajik militants, the Taliban have virtually taken control of Buner, barely 100 km north of Islamabad and known for poppy cultivation.
Zar Gull Khan, a former provincial legislator of the Pakistan Muslim League (Q) party, told that the Taliban have extended their influence to Gadoon Amazai, Shangla and other regions around Buner. He said if the Taliban were to take Batagram, which adjoins Kaladhaka, then Islamabad itself will be within their reach.
According to official sources, the Tajik militants have taken over the administrative control of Buner. The Taliban have closed existing courts and vowed to set up Shariah courts. Private TV channels have reported that the gun-toting Taliban have been on a looting spree in Buner’s Gokand Valley for the last five days. They have robbed government and NGO offices of vehicles, computers, printers, generators, edible oil and food.
Government officials said that local politicians, businessmen, NGO officials and tribal chiefs, who had played a role in raising a lashkar, or militia, to counter the Taliban, have been forced to move out. The Taleban have extended their control to almost all areas of the district and police have been confined to police stations and camps.
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates yesterday urged Pakistani leaders to act against the spread of Taliban, saying failure to confront the threat could affect US-Pakistani relations. In a visit to Camp Lejeune, a military installation in North Carolina, Gates said some Pakistani leaders recognize the “existential threat” facing the country’s democratic government from the Taliban.