An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan's troubled Swat valley declared local Taliban chief Maulana Fazlullah, his spokesman Muslim Khan and five other aides as "proclaimed offenders", on Wednesday and ordered them to appear before it within a week.
Judge Khalil Khan Khalil declared Fazlullah and his aides as "proclaimed offenders" or fugitives from law. He ordered them to appear in the local police station or in his court within seven days, failing which action would be taken against them.
Besides Fazlullah, the others named in the court's order were Muslim Khan, Shah Duran -- who is known for issuing orders for people to be executed in his radio broadcasts -- Ahmed Ali Shah, Gul Akbar, Akhtar Ayub and Sirajuddin.
Over 100 cases, including several of murder and attempted murder, have been registered against Fazlullah, whose current whereabouts are not known. Local courts in Swat began functioning after the army restored order in most parts of the scenic valley, located 160 km from the federal capital. The local chapter of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan led by Fazlullah had ordered all courts in Swat to close down earlier this year. Judges had fled with their families from many parts of Malakand division, which includes Swat.
The security forces initially cracked down on Fazlullah, also known as "FM Maulana" for his fiery radio broadcasts, in October 2007. The offensive was halted due to a peace deal being concluded in Swat. The government called in the army to eliminate the Taliban in May this year after militants in Swat took advantage of the peace deal to extend their influence to nearby Buner and Dir districts. Interior Minister Rehman Malik said several weeks ago that Fazlullah, who carries a reward of Rs 50 million on his head, had been injured in the military operations against the Taliban and that troops had surrounded the area where he was hiding.
However, there has been no news since then about his fate. The army says around 1,800 Taliban fighters have been killed in the operations in Malakand. There is no independent confirmation of the figure. Army chief Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani said last week that 300 soldiers also lost their lives in the fighting.