“The Taliban finally made a grave error,” said Javed Siddiq, editor of the influential Urdu language daily Nawa-e-Waqt. “Once they challenged Pakistan’s constitution as un-Islamic, Islamic scholars and the Pakistani people no longer saw them as the self-styled defenders of Islam against western infidels – but infidels themselves who want to dismantle the Pakistani state.” Siddiq said that challenging the constitution was a wrong step and believes it has backfired. Pakistan’s constitution was carefully forged by a board of Islamic scholars in 1973 – every tenet was crafted to make sure it conformed to the principals of Islam. “Now, all the different sects of the Sunni and Shiite, the religious scholars, the army, the politicians and every Pakistani is against the Taliban,” Siddiq said. “They have lost.” The Taliban were quick to sense their blunder and the resulting sea change in the country. “The expansion into Buner was the turning point,” said Siddiq.
‘No ordinary Taliban commander’
It was soon after the Taliban signed the February peace agreement with the Pakistani government that Commander Fateh began to plan the militants’ move into Buner. “I saw Swat as an opening for us,” Fateh told NBC News in a recent interview. “I knew if I planned well, we would be able to advance little by little, hopefully in a peaceful way, and gradually enforce Islam in the valley.” Fateh, a 33-year-old native of Swat, rose up through the ranks of Taliban fighters after almost 15 years of fighting in Afghanistan. The somber-looking commander, who is married with three sons, is considered to be an accomplished military strategist, often brilliant in battle, according to Taliban commanders in the region. With the bearing of a de-facto prince exacting homage from his subjects, Fateh, whose name means victorious in Urdu, rode into Buner last Monday in the back seat of a black Toyota pick-up truck. Taliban fighters flanked his vehicle and brandished Kalashnikovs at the throngs of locals who had come out to catch a glimpse of him.
Fateh was meticulously turned out in a silky black turban that hung low on his clean, pressed tunic. He wore expensive-looking light brown leather ankle boots, and his long black beard gave off a heady smell of musk-scented oil in the afternoon sun. “This was no ordinary Taliban commander,” said an NBC cameraman, who caught up with Fateh in Buner. “Most of them are scruffy. This guy was different. I wanted to ask him where he got his shoes.”