PESHAWAR, May 7: An anti-terrorism court here on Monday indicted the imprisoned chief of proscribed Tehrik Nifaz Shariat-i-Muhammadi (TNSM), Maulana Sufi Mohammad, and 19 others in an over 17-year old case of attacking a police station and making some policemen hostage.

Maulana Sufi and other accused persons, mostly belonging to TNSM, pleaded not guilty to the charge and decided to stand trial following which the court fixed May 15 for the next hearing and also summoned the prosecution witnesses.

Due to security reasons the judge of the anti-terrorism court Swat, Asim Imam, has been conducting trials against Maulana Sufi Mohammad and dozens of other members of TNSM inside the Peshawar Central Prison in around 10 terrorism-related cases mostly registered in 1994-95.

In the instant case the prosecution alleged that the activists of TNSM headed by Maulana Sufi Mohammad had stage a demonstration in 1995 demanding enforcement of Islamic Shariah in Malakand region. It is alleged that when policemen tried to disperse them the accused attacked the concerned Khwazakhela police station and also took away some policemen. It is added that the accused had kept the policemen in wrongful confinement and had set them free later on.

An FIR was registered against the accused at Khwazakhela police station under section 365 (kidnapping), section 342 (wrongful confinement), section 121A (conspiracy to wage war against Pakistan) and section 120B (punishment for criminal conspiracy) of Pakistan Penal Code and the anti-terrorism law.

Few months ago the same court had framed charges against Maulana Sufi Mohammad and several others over the murder of an MPA of Pakistan People’s Party, Badiuzzaman Khan.

The MPA hailed from Shangla, adjacent to Swat, and was killed on Nov 3, 1994, in the jurisdiction of Mingora police station.

While during the last decade Maulana Sufi had mostly remained imprisoned the successive governments did not conduct trials against him in several old cases and even in one of the cases he was shown as proclaimed offender.

Initially, he was arrested in Kurrum Agency in Dec 2001 on his return to Pakistan from Afghanistan where he had gone heading around 10,000 persons to fight the American forces there.

He was tried and sentenced under several sections of Pakistan Penal Code and Frontier Crimes Regulation by the concerned political agent. When the present Awami National Party’s government came to power in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, he was released under an agreement on April 21, 2008. Later, another agreement was inked between TNSM and provincial government in Feb 2009 but it failed in restoration of peace in Malakand Division.

After launching of a military operation in Malakand Division, Maulana Sufi Mohammad was again arrested on July 26, 2009, from Sethi Town, Peshawar, along with his three sons. He has been in jail since then.

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