The leader of a powerful anti-Taliban militia on Thursday threatened to stop cooperating with authorities after a deadly suicide bombing on his men _ a warning that highlights the risks Pakistan is taking by using private armies with questionable loyalties in its struggle against the insurgents.
Dilawar Khan and other militia leaders close to Peshawar have long demanded more money and weapons from authorities in northwest Pakistan, accusing the government of encouraging them to rise up against the Taliban but not giving them the support needed to do so.
But authorities, worried about giving them too much power, have been careful not to give them too much.
Wednesday's suicide bombing by the Taliban at a funeral attended by militiamen in which at least 36 people were killed has stoked anger and led to new threats by Khan, who is based in a fortress-like compound and claims to have hundreds of followers.
"We have fought against the Taliban, doing what should have been done by the government, but in return we did not even get security for a funeral," Khan said as he attended the funeral Thursday of those killed in the bombing. "We have said that we will stop our support to the government against the Taliban in such a situation, and I repeat today that we will do it."
The wealthy landowner and militia leader has not carried out his earlier, similar threats, which were presumably made to pressure the government into giving him more resources. But they carry extra weight after what was the deadliest bombing in Pakistan this year, and leave the security forces in an increasingly difficult position.
"I hope Dilawar Khan will not take any such steps, because doing so would negate his whole struggle," said Peshawar city police chief, Liaqat Ali Khan. "The government and the police are helping him with resources, but the police are also playing a role in the area. This is not something just for Dilawar Khan, it is a joint war."
Wednesday's attack took place in Matani, a hilly area on the outskirts of Peshawar on the way to the tribal regions, where al-Qaida and Taliban militants are at their strongest. Khan and two other local tribal leaders have raised anti-Taliban armies in the area.
The state has supported the rise of similar militia in other parts of the northwest, mostly to hold ground retaken by militants or provide intelligence on their movements. Paying tribes to fight has a long tradition in the region dating back to British colonial days.
The insurgents have repeatedly attacked the militias, often in mass casualty assaults at mosques or during meetings.
Last December, police chief Khan praised the militias in helping improve security in Matani, which was once under insurgent control, but also spoke of the risks of giving them too much power. Matani is of strategic importance because it is a buffer zone between the border regions and Peshawar, the seat of government and main base of security forces in the northwest.
Human rights groups have criticized the state for ceding its authorities to unaccountable armies, even if they do provide some short term security gains. They say the state should give the police and army better training, equipment and funding, not the militia, known locally as "Lashkars."
"It may now be time to admit the lashkars have had, at best, limited success and at worst have contributed to the never-ending cycle of violence," the Express Tribune said in an editorial. "The government is in a no-win situation. If it ups the ante and heavily arms the lashkars, it could create an Afghanistan-like situation where the lashkars become the new warlords."
Munir Ahmed in Islamabad and Riaz Khan in Peshawar contributed to this report.