Pakistan charges Sufi Mohammed with treason

The Pakistani government has charged the leader of a pro-Taliban group and seven of his associates with treason, inciting rebellion, terrorism, waging war, and conspiracy against Pakistan.

Police have filed charges against Sufi Mohammed, the leader of the banned pro-Taliban Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammed [TNSM, or the Movement for the Enforcement of Mohammed’s Law], and seven others at the Saido Sharif Police Station in Swat.

“We have registered a case of treason, rebellion and terrorism against Sufi Mohammad,” Sajid Khan Mohmand , the chief of police for the district of Swat, told news agencies. “A case of waging war and conspiracy against the country has also been registered.”

The charges revolve around statements made by Sufi at a rally in Swat on April 19. During the rally in Mingora, the main town in Swat, Sufi denounced Pakistan’s democratic system and called for the entire nation to be put under sharia, or Islamic law. “There is no room for democracy in Islam,” Sufi told the crowd.

Sufi made similar statements in February 2009, just after the Malakand Accord, the agreement that imposed sharia in much of northwestern Pakistan, was signed. Sufi denounced the Pakistani government, advocated the imposition of sharia, or Islamic law, throughout Pakistan and worldwide, and blamed security forces for violating the peace agreement.

“We hate democracy,” Sufi told the crowd of thousands of followers in February. “We want the occupation of Islam in the entire world. Islam does not permit democracy or election.”

On June 25, Sufi and two of his sons were detained in Peshawar, just one day after chairing a shura meeting in the provincial capital of the Northwest Frontier Province. He had been previously detained in May and held by intelligences services, but quietly released.

The charges against Sufi and his associates take place as Pakistan claims it will now crack down on all Islamist groups. Police recently arrested Shah Abdul Aziz, a former member of parliament and known Islamist, for his role in the murder and beheading of Peter Stanczak, a Polish engineer, earlier this year. Aziz is charged with issuing the order to kill Stanczak.

Background on the Malakand Accord and fighting in Swat

The fighting in Swat, Dir, Buner, and Shangla broke out earlier this year after a peace agreement with the Taliban failed. The agreement, known as the Malakand Accord, placed the Malakand Division and the district of Kohistan under the control of the Taliban. The Malakand Division comprises the districts of Malakand, Swat, Shangla, Buner, Dir, and Chitral. Together with the neighboring Kohistan district, the Malakand Division encompasses nearly one-third of the Northwest Frontier Province.

The government signed the Malakand Accord with Sufi Mohammed, the father-in-law of Swat Taliban leader Mullah Qair Fazlullah, on Feb. 16, after two years of fighting that had put the Taliban in control of the district. During those two years, the military was defeated three separate times while attempting to wrest control from the Taliban. Each defeat put the Taliban in greater control of the district.

The peace agreement called for the end of military operations in Swat, the end of Taliban operations, and the imposition of sharia, or Islamic law, in the Malakand Division.

But the Taliban violated the agreement immediately after signing it, and proceeded to attack security forces and conduct armed patrols. The military remained silent while the government approved the Taliban’s demand for sharia throughout Malakand.

The government ordered a military offensive in Dir and Buner after enormous pressure from the US and other Western governments to stem the Taliban tide pushing toward central Pakistan. The Taliban advanced from Swat into Buner in early April and took over the district in eight days. The move into Buner has put the Taliban within 60 miles of Islamabad and close to several nuclear facilities and the vital Tarbela Dam. The Taliban also have moved into Mansehra and established bases and a training camp in the region.

Pakistani government and military officials had dismissed the Taliban threat to Islamabad and the country’s nuclear facilities, but at the end of April, the local Islamabad government ordered troops to deploy in the Margala hills just north of the city to block a Taliban advance, while the Haripur government beefed up security at the Tarbela Dam.

The military has recently claimed that more than 90 percent of Swat has been cleared, and more than 1,800 Taliban fighters and 160 Pakistan troops have been killed during the fighting. The government is urging the more than three million internally displaced people who fled the fighting return home. So far, more than 300,000 of them have begun to filter back into Swat, Dir, and Buner.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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