Pro-Taliban cleric Sufi Muhammad arrested in Pakistan (Lead)

July 26th, 2009 - 9:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, July 26 (IANS) Pro-Taliban cleric Sufi Muhammad, who brokered a peace deal between the militants and the provincial government about six months ago in Swat Valley, was arrested by Pakistan authorities Sunday from northwestern city of Peshawar, a news report here said.
The influential cleric and his two sons, Ziaullah and Rizwanullah, were held following a raid in an area in the capital city of the North Western Frontier Province (NWFP), Geo TV reported citing official sources.

The cleric, the founder of banned militant group Tehreek Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM), was arrested for speaking against the government and encouraging violence and terrorism, the report said.

“Sufi Muhammad criticised the country’s judicial system, supported terrorism and his policy strengthened the Taliban after the peace deal in Swat,” NWFP Information Minister Iftikhar Hussain was quoted as saying by the Dawn News.

“We will not allow anyone to spread terrorism in Swat again and the government will frame terrorism charges against the TNSM chief,” he said.

In February, Sufi Muhammad negotiated a peace deal with the provincial government that allowed the Taliban to enforce Islamic (Sharia) law in exchange for shedding violence.

But the deal, which was widely seen as allowing the Taliban to take control of the restive Swat Valley, collapsed in April when the Taliban advanced into neighbouring districts, coming within 100 km of Islamabad, forcing the government to launch a massive military offensive against them.

Sufi Muhammad is the father-in-law of Maulana Fazlullah, the head of Taliban in the Swat Valley.

The cleric and his sons have been shifted to an undisclosed location.

Earlier Sunday, it was reported that Sufi Muhammad has a residence in Peshawar where he was living for the last one and half months.

Meanwhile, a local Taliban commander has been killed and 10 militants, including an Imam, were arrested during raids by security forces in Swat and Malakand division in the province, Geo TV reported.

The commander known as Qambar was killed during the operation in Talkumaribanda and Mirabanda while the mosque Imam and other militants were arrested from Warmai, the report said.

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