YORK - The fall of Buner last week to the Taliban militants involved tactics that could be replicated elsewhere, the New York Times reported Sunday.
The lesson of Buner is that the dynamic of the Taliban insurgency, as methodical and slow building as it has been, can change suddenly and the tactics used by the Taliban can be replicated elsewhere, the newspaper said in a dispatch, citing local politicians and residents.
The Taliban took over Buner through both force and guile - awakening sleeping sympathisers, leveraging political allies, pretending at peace talks and then crushing what was left of their opponents, NYT said after interviewing politicians and local residents.
Though some of the militants have since pulled back, it said, they still command the high points of Buner and have fanned out to districts even closer to Islamabad.
According to locals, the fall of Buner should be no surprise. Last fall, the inspector general of police in North West Frontier Province Malik Naveed Khan complained that hundreds of his officers were being attacked and killed.
Mr Khan was so desperate - and had been so thoroughly abandoned by the military and the government - that he was relying on citizen posses like the one that stood up to the Taliban last August.
Today, the paper said the hopes that those civilian militias inspired are gone and brushed away by the realisation that Pakistanis can do little to stem the Taliban advance if their government and military will not help them.
The people of Buner got nothing for their bravery, when they pushed the Taliban back in last August, according to the NYT. In December, the Taliban retaliated for the brazenness of the resistance in the district, sending a suicide bomber to disrupt voting during a by-election. More than 30 people were killed and scores were wounded.
Severe disenchantment toward the government rippled out of the suicide bombing for a very basic reason, Amir Zeb Bacha, the director of the Pakistan International Human Rights Organisation in Buner, was quoted as saying. When we took the injured to the hospital there was no medicine, he said. The election was rescheduled but turned out to be a farce. Voters were too scared to show up, said Aftab Ahmad Sherpao, a former interior minister, who lives in the area and has twice escaped Taliban suicide bombers.
The peace deal the military struck with the Taliban in February in neighbouring Swat further demoralised people in Buner, it said. Residents and local officials said they asked themselves how they could continue to resist the Taliban when the military had abandoned the effort. The Taliban were emboldened by the deal and called for institution of Shariah throughout Malakand Agency, which included both Swat and Buner. It allowed the Taliban amnesty for their killings, floggings and destruction of girls schools in Swat.