Sufi Muhammad is now encouraging Taliban defiance in Swat

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Lahore, May 11 (ANI): Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) chief Sufi Muhammad, who was released from prison to talk peace and able to convince the insurgents to lay down their weapons, still backs the Taliban.

The ceasefire deal negotiated by Sufi with the NWFP Government in the Swat valley lies in tatters as the Taliban and the army square off amid accusations of betrayal from both sides.

The 78-year-old Sufi Muhammad, who negotiated the truce and pledged last year to work for "peace and the restoration of the government's writ" in Swat is now encouraging Taliban defiance, the Daily Times reported.

The US had criticised the Swat deal, saying it would permit the Taliban to regroup and expand their reach. The Taliban tried to do exactly that. Fighting has since resumed in Swat, home to 1.5 million people.

Sufi's aides insist he is committed to peace and ready for fresh talks with the government. But US officials in Pakistan say the Swat deal shows it is the men with weapons who decide the terms. To maintain their position, men like Sufi Muhammad must find favour with them.

The deals "actually neutralised the moderates," says Samina Ahmed of the International Crisis Group. "Where are they now? They're not in Swat. They're fleeing for their lives."

Sardar Hussain Babak, the NWFP Minister, called the cleric a "peaceful man". But he also said he did not think Sufi Muhammad "will convince those who have guns to lay down their guns. ...The intentions of these people are now very clear". (ANI)

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