Pro-Taliban cleric Sufi Muhammad arrested in Pak

Pro-Taliban cleric Sufi Muhammad arrested in Pak
Peshawar:  The radical cleric who brokered a failed peace deal in Pakistan's Swat valley, is now under arrest. Sufi Muhammad was arrested in Peshawar for speaking against the government and encouraging violence and terrorism.

The influential cleric and father-in-law of the Taliban leader in Swat Maulana Fazlullah, negotiated a peace deal with the government in February - a deal that helped the Taliban take control of the valley.

But it collapsed two months later. After the Taliban moved beyond the Swat valley and headed towards Islamabad - capturing territory right up to within 100 kms of Pakistan's capital.

Under pressure, the government launched an offensive in the Swat Valley and surrounding areas.

Almost 2 million people had to flee their homes and take refuge in camps.

In the last two weeks, hundreds of thousands have been returning home as the offensive winds down, although sporadic fighting persists.

Sufi Muhammad who leads a pro-Taliban group was jailed in 2002 but was freed last year after he renounced violence.

But his arrest is being seen by some as an indication that the government will no longer negotiate with the Taliban - a position likely to please the US, which is looking for signs Islamabad is serious about cracking down on militants.
Story First Published: July 27, 2009 10:41 IST

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