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Taliban retreat from Buner

world Updated: Apr 25, 2009 00:48 IST
Kamal Siddiqi

The Taliban militia started pulling out of Buner town, located in the troubled North West Frontier Province, on Friday after Moulvi Sufi Mohommad of the Tehreek-Nifaz-Shariat-Mohammadi visited the area and appealed for their withdrawal.

The move comes amidst rumours of a military operation against the Taliban in the near future. However, the Taliban have said that they were not withdrawing under any pressure.

In a meeting on Friday, Pakistan army chief General Perwez Ashfaq Kayani warned that religious extremists “cannot take Pakistan's civil society hostage.”

Addressing top army commanders who are involved in military operations against the Taliban, General Kayani expressed his dissatifaction with the on-ground situation in Swat and other parts of the North West Frontier Province, reported local media.

Dawn News, a local English channel, speculated that a military operation against Islamic militants in Swat would start within the next 48 hours. However, no details were available of such an operation from military officials. But the Taliban have said that they will continue with their mission and will not lose heart.

On Friday, Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan said that the militia was withdrawing voluntarily and not under any pressure or agreement. "We will go to Karachi or any other part of Pakistan if invited," said Muslim Khan in a chilling reminder of the growing influence of the militia in Pakistan.

Earlier in the day, TNSM chief Moulvi Sufi Mohommad assured that the militants were abiding by the agreement with the government. He also said that the agreement which his organisation had signed with the government for the imposition of Islamic rule did not extent to Buner, which was located outside the Malakand division, which falls under the agreement.

Observers say that the relations between the government and the TNSM had reached a breaking point with the continued activities of the Taliban in Swat and adjoining areas.