Octogenarian cleric and chief of the banned Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) Maulana Sufi Muhammad was released from jail after his arrest and subsequent imprisonment in 2009 for hate speech against the government, police told DawnNews.

The Peshawar High Court ordered his release last week after accepting his bail application in two different cases ─ one pertaining to hate speech against the government and the other related to an attack on a police station.

The TNSM chief had in the last hearing of the case argued that he should be released "as his health is deteriorating with each passing day."

Maulana Sufi was escorted outside the building premises by police officers after all official procedures were completed, the police sources said.

He was shifted to an undisclosed location by his relatives after his release.

On July 30, 2009, a Swat police station had booked the TNSM chief for hate speech against the government. In that speech, Sufi Muhammad had termed the Constitution "un-Islamic" and demanded enforcement of the Sharia.

The TNSM chief had been imprisoned since his arrest when the final phase of a military operation against militants was launched in the Malakand region.

A number of cases were registered against Sufi Muhammad; however, in each case, witnesses against him had either died or could not be traced.

Successive governments did not adopt a uniform policy towards him, which can be termed as a reason for his non-conviction in cases registered against him.

Sometimes he was portrayed as the root cause of all the death and destruction witnessed by the inhabitants of Malakand, especially Swat, while at other times, the government saw him as a saviour who could restore peace to the region.

In 2009, the year a peace deal was signed with his proscribed organisation, he was exercising much influence and had even stopped regular courts from functioning there.

In 2015, news had surfaced about Sufi Muhammad issuing an informal decree against Mulla Fazlullah-led Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), declaring that members of the banned outfit lack the traits essential for a Muslim.

“They [TTP] do not come up to the definition of Momin and Muslim set by the Holy Prophet (PBUH),” he stated in a written ‘will’, a copy of which is available with Dawn.

The computer-written will, having both Pashto and Urdu versions with his signature placed in the end, was written in December — four days after the Dec 16 Army Public School carnage which left over 150 people, mostly schoolchildren, dead.

The octogenarian cleric accused Mullah Fazlulla, his son-in-law, of bringing a bad name to the TNSM, killing a number of its leaders, and inflicting colossal loss on seminaries.

The earlier cases in which Sufi Mohammad was acquitted pertained to hatching conspiracy against the state, an attack against government installations, including police stations, in parts of Swat over 18 years ago, speech in which public was incited to violence against the then rulers, including retired general Pervez Musharraf.

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