A Pakistani court has freed Sufi Mohammed, a radical cleric who has backed the Taliban and was responsible for the group’s uprising and rebellion in Swat and neighboring districts in northwestern Pakistan a decade ago. His son-in-law is Mullah Fazlullah, the emir of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan.
The Peshawar High Court granted Mohammed bail after he petitioned the court and claimed that “his health is deteriorating with each passing day,” Dawn reported.
Mohammed led the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammed (TNSM), or the Movement for the Enforcement of Mohammed’s Law, a Taliban-like group that operated in the Malakand Division, a region in northwestern Pakistan. He recruited thousands of fighters to battle US forces in Afghanistan in the early 2000s. The Musharraf government banned the TNSM and placed Mohammed under arrest, but he was released in late 2007 to negotiate a peace agreement that allowed the TNSM and the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan to take control of the district of Swat.
The peace agreement, known as the Malakand Accord, placed the Malakand Division and the district of Kohistan under 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 Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province.
During its two-year reign from 2007 through 2009, the Taliban terrorized the people of Swat and destroyed its local economy, including its popular tourism industry. Additionally, the Taliban used its stronghold in Swat to attack Pakistani forces and destabilized neighboring districts. The Taliban’s insurgency spread to within 50 miles of Islamabad and seeped into Punjab province before the Paksitani military responded in late 2009.
Mohammed often espoused anti-democratic views and believed in the primacy of Islam. “We hate democracy,” he told a crowd of thousands of followers during a rally in Swat in Feb. 2009. “We want the occupation of Islam in the entire world. Islam does not permit democracy or election.”
Mohammed has been imprisoned and released several times during the past two decades. Pakistani forces arrested Mohammad in Aug. 2009, along with seven of his associates. He was charged with “treason, rebellion and terrorism,” as well as “waging war and conspiracy against the country.” [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Pakistan charges Sufi Mohammed with treason.]
However, as Dawn noted, “A number of cases were registered against Sufi Mohammed; however, in each case, witnesses against him had either died or could not be traced.” Mohammed was never convicted of any of these crimes, and likely never will be.
Pakistani officials, when criticized by Americans for sheltering, supporting, or turning a blind eye to jihadists, often complain that its citizens and soldiers have endured more casualties while fighting jihadists. Yet jihadists such as Sufi Mohammed, who is responsible for open rebellion and the murder of thousands of Pakistanis, routinely avoid justice for their crimes.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.