TIMERGARA, April 22: Maulana Sufi Mohammad, chief of the banned Tehrik Nifaz Shariat-i-Muhammadi (TNSM), said on Tuesday that he would wage a peaceful struggle for enforcement of Sharia in the tribal region.

Addressing activists and supporters at the Amandara seminary in Malakand Agency, he asked them to be peaceful and tolerant. According to sources, he said that government officials, police and military personnel were also Muslims and killing Muslims was against the teachings of Islam.

“Patience, peace, piety and firmness are our principles which we will never abandon,” he said, adding that disputes would be resolved through talks.

He avoided talking to journalists on the occasion.

Earlier, Maulana Sufi was extended a warm welcome when he arrived in Chakdara after his release on Monday night. He was greeted by ANP lawmaker Haji Hidayatullah, Tehsil Nazim Samar Bagh Haji Bahadar Khan and a large number of TSNM activists and supporters.

He was taken to his village Maidan in Dir Lower in a caravan.

Maulana Sufi was released after the government reached an agreement with leaders of the TNSM who renounced militancy and condemned attacks on state institutions, police and law-enforcement agencies.

Agencies add: Militant commander Maulana Fazlullah, whose followers waged a virtual war against government troops in Swat last year, welcomed the release of Maulana Sufi, but vowed to continue his armed struggle for Sharia enforcement. Muslim Khan, a spokesman for the son-in-law of Maulana Sufi, said that militants would not end their battle.

“We welcome the release of Sufi Muhammad, but we will only lay down arms when the government would enforce Sharia,” he said.

Maulana Sufi’s TSNM resurfaced under Fazlullah’s leadership after his arrest in 2002. Fazlullah is reportedly at odds with Maulana Sufi, and experts have warned the younger militant may be unwilling to change.

Muslim Khan said the militants he spoke for had not seen the text of the accord signed by Maulana Sufi, and would comment on it only after getting details.

“We are fighting for the enforcement of Sharia. If the government enforces Sharia today, we will stop our struggle,” he said. “But we want to see practical steps from the government and not just the promises.”