PESHAWAR: As the Darul Qaza is inaugurated in Swat, an anti-terrorism court in Peshawar framed terror charges against TNSM chief Maulana Sufi Muhammad.
The octogenarian cleric had pursued the demand for imposition of a harsh brand of sharia in Malakand division for almost two decades. He is now behind bars after he was arrested by authorities in July last year from Peshawar.
Pakistan’s legal system was extended to Dir, Swat and Chitral after these princely states were merged with Pakistan in 1969. In 1975, the Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (Pata) Regulations I and II transferred judicial powers to the executive instead of the judiciary.
In early 1990s, the Peshawar High Court (PHC) declared that the regulations were unconstitutional and discriminatory in nature. The judgment, which was also upheld by the Supreme Court, opened an avenue for Sufi Muhammad who had set up the TNSM in 1989 after splitting with Jamaat-e-Islami.
In 1994, the provincial government announced that sharia courts will be set up in Malakand after street protests by TNSM activists. The legislation was named Nifaz-i-Nizam-i-Sharia but the TNSM rejected it, saying it was subservient to procedural law which was laid down by foreigners in the subcontinent.
Tempers flared again in November 1994 and an operation was launched against the TNSM and Sufi Muhammad and other senior leaders were arrested. Four years later, the government issued an amended version of this law but the cleric also rejected it.
In 2001, Sufi Muhammad was jailed upon returning to Pakistan from fighting in Afghanistan. He was released in 2008 to woo militants in Swat and an accord was reached with the government agreeing to enforce Nizam-e-Adl regulations.
However, Sufi Muhammad’s relationship with the PPP government soured as he began a verbal diatribe against Pakistan’s legal system. In early 2010, he called it ‘kufr’ while addressing a public meeting in Mingora. The peace agreement broke down as the military moved into Swat and Sufi Muhammad went into hiding.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 19th, 2011.