Cleric Sufi Muhammad passes away

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Maulana Sufi Muhammad, the founder of the banned Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) which took over parts of Swat in the 90s and 2000s, has passed away.

According to a local TV, the 86-year-old controversial cleric’s death has been confirmed by his son.

Sufi, the father-in-law of former Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Maulana Fazlullah, was born in 1933 in Maidan, Lower Dir.

He received his religious education from a local madrassa and was an active member of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) in the 1980s. Sufi formed the TNSM in 1994 and the group soon launched an armed campaign to forcefully take over government functions in Swat.

Following the US invasion of Afghanistan, the TNSM offered support to the Taliban. Within a few years, the Pakistani government banned his activities and he was imprisoned.

He was released from prison in 2008 and entered peace negotiations with the Awami National Party (ANP)-led government to end violence in Malakand division, after the ANP agreed to allow the implementation of Sharia in the area.

However, the TNSM launched a campaign to seize control of much of Swat. The government responded with troops and airstrikes and the fighting ended in July 2009 after a truce was brokered with Sufi.

The agreement between the provincial government and TNSM led to the withdrawal of all cases against Sufi and his associates. However, peace was not restored in Malakand division and the cases against Muhammad and accomplices were restored.

He was then arrested in March 2010 and was only released from prison in January 2018. He faced cases of sedition, conspiracy against the state, attacks on state installations, and inciting hatred against the government among several others.

In the six-page judgment on Sufi’s bail plea, Peshawar High Court’s Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth noted that the accused was being released on bail mainly on medical grounds and due to delay in commencement of his trial.

The medical report submitted in court stated that Sufi suffered from multiple diseases including hypertension, breathlessness, enlarged prostate, retention of urine and cardiac problems.