LOWER DIR: Ameer of the banned Tehreek Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM) Maulana Sufi Muhammad has passed away after protracted illness in Lower Dir.

The son of Sufi Muhammad confirmed his death at his at his home in Lal Qila village. He was 92. He was suffering from diabetes, kidney disease and urine problem since long.

The TNSM leader’s funeral prayer will be held at 6:30pm today (Thursday) and he will be laid to rest in his ancestral graveyard. Heavy contingent of police has been deployed at the home and funeral site to ensure law and order during the funeral.

A highly controversial cleric, Maulana Sufi Muhammad was father-in-law of the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Maulana Fazlullah who was killed in a US drone attack.

Sufi Muhammad was born in Maidan area of Lower Dir and he received his religious education from a local religious seminary (madrassa) and was an active member of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) in the 1980s. Later on, he rebelled from the party and formed the TNSM 1989. At that time, Sufi Muhammad gained considerable support in Malakand Davison for imposition of a strict version of Shariah and led several massive protests. His protests forced the then NWFP government at that time to announce establishment of Shariah courts in Malakand in 1994. However, the TNSM rejected the provincial government’s legislation to establish Shariah courts, arguing that was subservient to procedural law and not fulfilling the needs of Shariah law.

The government launched crackdown against the TNSM in which Sufi Muhammad and other senior leaders of the outfit were arrested. The provincial government again amended the law for Shariah courts in 1999, but Sufi Muhammad refused to accept it. After US invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11 attacks, Sufi Muhammad took several youth from Pakistan to Afghanistan to fight against the foreign forces. Several Pakistani youth died and went missing in Afghanistan during that time and Sufi Muhammad was arrested in Pakistan upon his return from Afghanistan. But the government had to release him again in 2008 to start peace talks with militants who had taken over Swat. With the help of Sufi Muhammad, again Shariah courts were established in Malakand Division under further amended version of the law. However, militant activities didn’t stop and the government was forced to order a military operation in Swat. Sufi Muhammad was again arrested. He was released by the Peshawar High Court in 2008 on health grounds as he was suffering from several diseases.