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Call for Mufti Shakir’s return

March 14, 2006

PESHAWAR, March 13: Supporters of Mufti Munir Shakir on Monday called upon political authorities to allow the controversial cleric to return to Khyber Agency and asked local officials to desist from any operation which could create a law and order situation in the tribal agency.

They said that Mufti Shakir’s Islamic teachings had helped to defuse sectarian tensions in the region.

Maulana Mohammad Shahi, a spokesperson for Mufti Munir Shakir and member of the Bazidkhel tribe, said that 200 followers of the cleric organised a peaceful demonstration the other day at Pishtakhara Chowk in Peshawar.

The demonstrators alleged that the cleric had been tortured by police and called for his release and his early return to the tribal agency.

“The police used tear-gas shells and batons against the peaceful protesters,” said Maulana Mohammad Shahi.

On Monday, members of Tapa Momand and Tapa Khalil tribes held a press conference at the Peshawar Press Club and urged the government to release Mufti Shakir’s supporters who were arrested by police during Sunday’s protest.

The political administration earlier asked the two clerics Mufti Shakir and Pir Saif-ur-Rehman to leave the agency for whipping up sectarian tensions in Khyber Agency through their sermons transmitted by illegally run FM radio channels.

Pir Saif-ur-Rehman, an Afghan national, reportedly left the tribal area for Lahore in Feb 2, but his followers alleged that Mufti Shakir had not left the tribal agency and was fanning hatred through his FM channel.

“The Mufti is outside the Khyber Agency and we want him to return so that he could continue with his Dars-i-Quran,” said Maulana Mohammad Karim, a follower of Mufti Shakir hailing from Peshawar.

Mufti Shakir left the tribal agency in order to pre-empt an operation by the political administration, according to Maulana Shahi.

Mufti Shakir, a 35-year-old cleric hailing from Kurram Agency, moved to Khyber agency some three years ago. His followers said that the Mufti was preaching peace and other Islamic teachings through his FM radio channel. Mufti Shakir, who was accused by the Pir group of being a militant, had helped the authorities to arrest four notorious kidnappers involved in kidnapping for ransom and two absconders, they said.

“We do no trust the peace committee because it was responsible for the killing of two peace committee members”, the Mufti’s followers said.

“The Pir group accuses Mufti Shakir of terrorism and kidnapping but it is Pir Saif-ur-Rehman who is responsible for the murder of eight Ulema of the Khyber agency. Even before Mufti Shakir, many other Ulema were against Pir Saif-ur-Rehman for his ‘controversial and wrong beliefs,” said Laal Zameer Afridi, a tribesman from Bazidkhel tribe.