News Desk |
Maulana Sufi Muhammad, founder of the banned outfit Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) has died. Media reports placed his age between 85 to 92 years old.
Sufi Muhammad was said to be the father of the Swat Taliban, and held great power in the Swat and Malakand areas during the 1990s and 2000s. He was also the father in law of the now killed Mulla Fazlullah, who terrorized the Swat Valley after gaining control by signing a truce with the government in 2009.
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At the height of his powers, Sufi Muhammad reportedly headed a force of up to 3000 Taliban fighters in Swat. He also fought against the American invasion in Afghanistan. However, upon returning to Pakistan in 2001 he was arrested and jailed. His release came in 2008 as the government tried to bring miltants in Swat to the table.
However, he openly challenged the state by declaring that Pakistan’s legal system was a system of ‘kufr’. This led to his arrest for a second time in 2009, on the charges of sedition, conspiracy and waging war against the state. He was only released on bail in 2018 after his court appeal claimed he was suffering from various diseases including hypertension and breathlessness.
Sufi Muhammad spent his post release life at home in Lower Dir, where he died on Thursday. His son Fazlullah said he died during Fajr prayers.
Sufi Muhammad was born in the Maidan area of Lower Dir in the 1930s. He received education in a local madrassa and was an active member of the Jamaat-e-Islami in the 1980s. However, he later left the JI and founded the TNSM that called for the imposition of Sharia in Swat.
Towards the end of his second jail term his views softened considerably, even going as far as calling his son-in-law Fazlullah an infidel. However, at the height of its rule the Taliban unleashed horror in Swat, including public floggings.