ISLAMABAD - Democracy is a system of kufr, the chief of the banned Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariah Muhammadi Sufi Muhammad had said shortly after signing a peace deal with the government of the NWFP.
The statement, complemented by his less than charitable statements against the judicial system, further alienated a public already deeply affected by the widely circulated video of a girl being flogged in Swat.
His statement caused a flurry of counter statements, including one from the Amir of the Jamaat-e-Islami Munawwar Hassan, who commented, tongue-in-cheek, that Sufi himself might be a bit of heretic, given that the latter himself had contested a councilor elections a long time ago.
Sufi Muhammad was a part of the Jamaat-e-Islami in the eighties and parted ways with it by starting the TNSM in 1989.
He stared a movement for the imposition of Shariah in the Swat valley and capitalized on the support of the people of the province who had an axe to grind against the corrupt and inefficient judicial system even though they did not seem to support other parts of his conservative agenda.
His movement got violent and his demands were finally accepted by the then PPP government in 1994.
The agreement fell apart, only to be re-enacted by the second Nawaz Sharif government.
Here again, the deal eventually broke down due to some other legalities.
In 2001 Maulana Sufi Mohammad led thousands of his young TNSM followers to fight the US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan which had invaded Kabul in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks.
Routed by bombing of the allied forces, leaving many dead and dying and others injured and maimed for life, Sufi Mohammad returned to face the question of how teenagers with no prior military training were expected to go into battle against the US Army.
Fearing intense backlash, he was 'arrested by the government at his own request in Pakistan in November 2001 after returning from Afghanistan.
With Sufi Mohammad in jail, TNSMs capabilities declined significantly after 2001.
His son-in-law, Maulvi Fazlullah, who emerged as the main militant leader in Swat, was nicknamed Maulana Radio for his pirate all-jihad format FM radio station preaching Islamic revolution against the state.
After the February 18th elections, the ANP-led provincial government requested the federal government for a military operation to cleanse the area of the militants, who were getting increasingly violent.
It was only after the military appeared unable (and some allege unwilling) to control the extremists that the government decided to enter into talks with the TNSM to restore peace to the area.
It was only after the agreement that Sufi Muhammad started getting more intransigent and demanded for his own hand-picked judges to be made the adjudicating officers.
He displayed yet more intransigence by delaying the negotiations over the establishment of Darul Qaza, which the NWFP government eventually set up on its own.
The main feature of Sufis profile, however, was not his statements, which were irrelevant, but his abject inability to reign in Fazlullah and his motley crew.
Shortly after the government resumed the operation against the militants, Sufi Muhammad was widely rumoured to have been killed.
His resurfacing killed those rumours and led to his subsequent arrest.

This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 27-Jul-2009 here.