KHAR -- Maulana Guldad Khan, an outspoken opponent of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), is still speaking out against the militants after recovering from injuries sustained in a bombing last year.
Khan, 65, was wounded alongside five others last June in a bombing near his residence in Nawagai, Bajaur District. One of his bodyguards, Fazal Hadi, later succumbed to his injuries.
Khan is one of the few religious leaders in the newly merged tribal districts who have long opposed the militants as well as supported polio vaccinations.
"I always called them Tehreek-e-Zaliman [brutal people] instead of Tehreek-e-Taliban and will continue my struggle despite attacks from them," Khan said April 2.
"I have challenged the TTP to a debate to prove that they are wrong and are killing innocent people in the name of Islam," he said. "Their perceptions are wrong about Islam, and I can prove that if they are ready for a debate anywhere in Pakistan."
Khan became well known in December 2007 after the killing of a Frontier Corps (FC) soldier at the hands of the TTP in Nawagai.
Even though the TTP threatened anyone who handled the soldier's body, Khan retrieved the remains and returned them to security forces.
Since then, militants have targeted Khan, his family and his allies 17 times. The attacks have killed nine people, including five of Khan's family members, and wounded 22 others.
Among the dead is Amin Ullah Khalid, one of Khan's sons, who was killed in a bombing in May 2015.
Khan himself was wounded twice, the first time in March 2009 when militants attacked his village and home.
"I call them Tehreek-e-Zaliman as they are killers of the innocent and of security forces, and because they fool the innocent in the name of Islam," said Khan.
"I will continue my mission despite attacks from militants, and I will raise my voice against the TTP until the last drop of my blood," Khan said.
"I will stay in Bajaur and will continue my fight while I am alive, he added.
A key role in peace
"Guldad has played a vital role in the restoration of peace, and he has always supported the security forces in the restoration of peace in the region, as no one was ready to help security forces in the era of militancy," said Sheikh Jehanzada, a local elder of Bajaur.
"The state should give him the presidential award for his and his comrades' sacrifices for peace," Jehanzada said.
"We want peace in our land as conflict has had a very bad impact on our society and life," he said.
Khan provided support to Pakistani security forces during a time when the TTP was on the rise and no one was ready to raise his or her voice against the militants, said Malik Zahir, a local elder of the Nawagai area in Bajaur District.
"Because of his strong support for the security forces, many of his friends and family members were targeted," he said.
"Guldad Khan is the only religious leader of tribal districts who challenged the TTP for a debate and the only leader who calls them Tehreek-e-Zaliman," Zahir added.
Khan fully supported the counter-insurgency Operation Sherdil against the TTP in 2009-2010 in Bajaur by speaking on FM radio channel Aman Radio to inform listeners about the negative impacts of the TTP, according to Zahir.
"Guldad Khan's speeches paved the way for security forces... [who] easily beat the TTP after Guldad's support," he said.