Pak court frames charges against prominent pro-Taliban cleric

Peshawar: A Pakistani anti-terrorism court Monday framed charges against pro-Taliban cleric Maulana Sufi Muhammad, the head of the banned Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariah Muhammadi, who has been accused of sedition and conspiring against the state.

The trial of Sufi Muhammad, the father-in-law of absconding Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah, is being conducted within the heavily guarded Central Prison in Peshawar.

Charges were formally framed against the radical cleric in connection with several cases during today's proceedings.

Sources said that the presiding officer of the anti-terrorism court, Asim Imam, conducted the proceedings.

The charges are being framed against Sufi Muhammad, TNSM leader Maulana Khalid and 68 other activists in phases.

The judge framed charges in four cases filed at Mingora, Kabal and Timargara police stations on January 31.

The judge fixed February 7 for framing charges in five other cases filed in Matta police station.

The public prosecutor informed the court that the government had reopened old cases dating from 1994 against Sufi Muhammad.

One of these cases registered at Mingora police station pertained to the killing of PPP legislator Badiuz Zaman allegedly by TNSM activists.

At an earlier hearing on January 4, Sufi Muhammad had refused to sign the chargesheet presented by the judge.

The firebrand cleric has been booked under the Anti-Terrorism Act and the Pakistan Penal Code.

Maulana Fazlullah led Taliban fighters in the northwestern Swat valley till the army launched an operation to flush militants out of the region.

Sufi Muhammad was arrested after the collapse of a peace deal he brokered with the Taliban in Swat.