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Charged with sedition, Sufi Mohammad granted bail – Pakistan

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Sufi Mohammad was arrested in 2009.—AP

PESHAWAR: The Pesha­war High Court on Monday granted bail to Maulana Sufi Mohammad, chief of the banned Tehreek-i-Nifaz-i-Shariat-i-Muhammadi (TNSM), in two cases registered in Swat district more than eight years ago.

A single-member bench of Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth accepted two petitions filed by Maulana Sufi Mohammad, who has been imprisoned since July 2009, with the direction to furnish two sureties of Rs700,000 each in the two cases.

The Maulana is accused of committing sedition, waging war against Pakistan and several other offences.

Fida Gul, counsel for the accused, told Dawn that they would complete legal formalities of submitting bail bonds on Tuesday (Jan 9) following which there was likelihood of his client’s release from the Peshawar central prison. He said apart from these two cases the petitioner had already been acquitted or granted bail in around 11 other cases.

Both FIRs were registered on July 30, 2009, after the final phase of the military operation was launched in Swat and other parts of Malakand Division for dislodging militants of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan’s Swat chapter. After the operation was launched, the petitioner had started residing at Sethi Town, Peshawar, with his family and was arrested from there with his three sons.

The first case was registered at Saidu Sharif police station about a public meeting addressed by the petitioner on April 19, 2009, after the TNSM had entered into an agreement with the then Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government. He was charged with sedition as he had termed the then government, Constitution of Pakistan and judicial system un-Islamic. He had also allegedly criticised the state of Pakistan.

He was charged under Sections 120-B (hatching criminal conspiracy), 121-A (waging war against Pakistan), 124-A (sedition), 148 and 149 (rioting) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Pakistan Penal Code.

The other case was registered at Kabal police station in June 1995 when Maulana Sufi and his supporters tried to impose ‘Shariah’ through use of force in Malakand division. The Maulana was charged under Sections 121 and 121-A (war against Pakistan), 324 (attempted murder) 341 (wrongful restraint) and 353 (obstructing public servant) of the IPC.

The local police had charged him and his supporters of attacking police force after a public meeting near Kabal police station.

While police had alleged that his supporters had opened fire, the petitioner had denied that allegations.

At present, Maulana Sufi and several of his supporters have been facing trial in the two cases in Swat.

Earlier, they were tried in these cases by an antiterrorism court, but the judge had transferred them to a regular court.

Advocate Fida Gul contended before the PHC bench that his client was 93 years old. He said that a medical board constituted by the court had stated that the petitioner had been suffering from multiple ailments, including diabetes, blood pressure, prostrate problem, etc.

The counsel stated that the petitioner was bedridden.

Without touching on the merit of the case, Fida Gul contended that on statutory grounds the petitioner was entitled to be set free on bail. He stated that in these two cases the government had shown his arrest date as March 24, 2010. He contended that despite passage of eight years these cases had still been in the preliminary stages and statements of prosecution witnesses had not been recorded so far.

Additional Advocate General Rabnawaz Khan opposed the petitions and contended that as there were several cases pending against the petitioner, therefore, trial in the present two cases could not conclude at the earliest. He stated that the delay in conclusion of trial was not because of the prosecution.

Previously, Maulana Sufi was arrested on Nov 20, 2001, in Kurram Agency when he was returning from Afghanistan where he had gone along with thousands of his supporters to wage “holy war” against US forces. He was subsequently released in April 2008 when the then provincial government had entered into an agreement with the TNSM in which the latter had disassociated itself from attacks on security forces and government installations and assured the government to help it in restoring its writ there.

The then government signed another peace deal with the TNSM in February 2009 hoping that Maulana Sufi would help in restoring peace in Malakand Division where the militants were calling the shots at that time. However, that agreement could not bring the desired results.

Published in Dawn, January 9th, 2018

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