PESHAWAR - In a surprise move, the Peshawar High Court yesterday granted bail to Tehreek Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi chief Sufi Mohammad .

A bench headed by Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth issued release order of TNSM chief Sufi Mohammad on medical and statutory grounds.

Sufi is father-in-law of Maulana Fazlullah, the fugitive chief of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

The elderly pro-Taliban cleric was himself the architect of a violent movement that sought enforcement of his version of Islamic sharia in the northwestern Malakand Division of the country.

He fled to Afghanistan and was arrested in October 2001 when he crossed the border into Pakistan with a group of armed men.

The TNSM chief was also accused of sending hundreds of his followers to fight against the US-led international forces.

But he was released in 2008 under a peace agreement with local tribal elders which settled those charges.

Believed to be in his 90s, he was arrested again in Peshawar in 2009 over an inflammatory speech, and has been held in a maximum security prison.

Sufi was earlier charged with murder, treason, terrorism and rebellion, but terrorism charges against him have been dropped over time.

Fida Gul, Sufi Mohammad’s lawyer sought the bail on medical and statutory ground in the remaining cases.

“He was too old to move and was suffering from kidney problems and weakness, and was taken to hospital many times,” Gul said.

As per the medical report presented in the court, the prison doctors had stated that treatment of Sufi Mohammad was not possible in the prison.

About the cases, Gul said that Sufi is currently facing treason charges and attack on police party in two cases lodged at Kabal police station and Saidu Sharif police station at the same day on July 30, 2009.

The defence counsel said that release of the TNSM chief from central prison Peshawar was expected after getting the order and submission of bail bonds.

Opposing bail to the TNSM chief, additional advocate general Rabnawaz submitted in the court that delay in the cases of Sufi Mohammad were actually caused due to his application for acquittal in terrorism charges from time to time.

He opposed the bail and said that Sufi Mohammad had already been acquitted in terrorism cases.

The decision to grant Sufi bail came less than a week after the US announced a freeze on aid to Pakistan that could be worth almost $2 billion.

The US move is designed to force Pakistan’s military and intelligence apparatus to cut alleged support for the Taliban and other Islamist groups, especially those fighting US forces in Afghanistan.

Pakistan strongly rejects US and Afghan accusations of support to Haqqanis and Afghan Taliban groups.

The country has fought fierce campaigns against homegrown militant groups, losing thousands of lives in its long war on extremism.

That includes the Pakistani Taliban, or TTP, headed by Sufi Mohammad’s son-in-law Fazlullah, who became infamous when he held the Swat Valley from 2007-2009, imposing a harsh brand of sharia law and carrying out public floggings and hangings.

But US officials accuse Pakistan of ignoring or even collaborating with groups that attack Afghanistan from safe havens along the border between the two countries.


Sufi Mohammad freed from jail