The NWFP government has released the banned outfit Tehreek e Nafaz e Shariat e Mohammadi (TNSM) incarcerated leader Maulana Sufi Mohammad on Monday, in a new bid to reclaim some of its lost territory in the restive Swat district and tribal areas.
ANP led coalition government of the province has been adamant that they would solve Taliban insurgency through dialogue and both the parties have hinted on many occasions that they are engaged in dialogue and talks are heading in right direction.
Deals with militants are not new and in the past provincial and federal governments also tried to broker peace with militant through dialogue.
The Muttahida Majlis Amal (MMA) led government of the Frontier in May 2007 signed a peace deal with Maulana Fazlullah, son-in-law of Sufi Mohammad and leader of Swat insurgency, which collapsed after the operation against Red Mosque in Islamabad and government, had to launch a military operation in the district in October last year to regain control, which is still going on.
Sufi Mohammad release has brought to the limelight the government attempts to bring the peace back to the province ravaged by the militancy, through negotiation and it also intends to replicate this model to tribal areas and engage the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a conglomerate of militants’ outfits fighting the security forces in the country.
However, in the past three deals had been signed with the Taliban militants in the North and South Waziristan, but all collapsed.
Sufi’s release came after a jirga of TNSM met the provincial government officials and Sufi agreed to follow a six point agenda for peace in Malakand Agency.
An active member of Jamaat Islami (JI), he established TNSM in 1992 after he quit (JI), and he gained such clout that his followers tried to enforce Sharia in the Malakand Agency in 1994 and several people were killed in clashes with security forces. Among other things, his version of sharia also included driving on the right hand side and his followers disrupted the regular flow of traffic all through the area by forcing people to drive in wrong lanes.
In 2001, during the American invasion of Afghanistan, he took around 10, 000 people to fight American forces in Afghanistan, but most of them were either killed or captured by the Northern Alliance.
He was arrested along with a dozen supporters in October 2001, on his return to Pakistan, after his disastrous Afghan campaign and later convicted for seven years in prison in 2002.
Since then, he was languishing in Dera Ismail Khan Jail and was shifted to Peshawar last autumn and lodged in the Hayatabad Medical Complex (HMC) in tight security. ANP led coalition government, which came to power after February 18 elections, started negotiations with TNSM and released him on Monday, but at present it is not clear, that could he be useful in normalising the situation.
It is also a question that he would be able to influence his son-in-law Maulana Fazlullah, the leader of Swat militancy, popularly known as ‘Radio Mullah.’
Author is a Staff Reporter for Daily Times, Peshawar Bureau.