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Sufi Muhammad’s contradictory charisma

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Maulana Sufi Muhammad of Tehreek-e Nifaz-e Shariat-e Muhammadi (TNSM) is now the hinge on which the peace of Swat revolves. He has committed himself to a number of things in his agreement with the NWFP government that he may not be finally able to deliver. If he vacillates, he breaks the accord; if he moves bravely forward, he runs the risk of breaking with the Taliban. One important observer of the Tribal Areas and ex-secretary FATA, Brigadier Mehmood Shah, thinks Peshawar could be counting on creating a rift between the Sufi and his son-in-law, warlord Fazlullah. And if the Sufi and the warlord walk together, then another rift could develop with the Taliban, after which Baitullah Mehsud is bound to lose ground in Swat.

In an interview to Daily Times in 2005, the Sufi revealed his deeply contradictory self and thus also revealed the hypocritical nature of the following he has in the Malakand region. At that point of time he was in a Dera Ismail Khan prison after returning from a quixotic jihad in Afghanistan with thousands of his untrained warriors brutalised by the northern warlords. A malleable 74-year-old Sufi had stated that the war being waged against Pakistan by so-called jihadi elements was terrorism and haram, and that “the bombings and attempts to kill Musharraf were not permissible”. He had equally condemned “what is happening in Waziristan” as being against sharia “because fighting against one’s own army is not allowed in Islam”.

Sufi Muhammad is a man of extraordinary charisma. It hardly matters if he is bristling with contradictions and changes his worldview frequently to suit his situation. That he was able to get thousands of innocent Pashtuns to walk with him into Afghanistan to fight the Americans without any one of them knowing how to handle modern weapons testifies to his capacity to mislead. That it proves a generally depressed low IQ among his devotees is another perhaps more worrisome matter. It is not only the laws he wants to tinker with, he also deems democracy and elections as being against Islam and therefore looks at the Jama’at-e Islami and JUI with contempt because they take part in elections. Peshawar has once again taken a big risk with him. (Daily Times)