They wore black badges which said SHARIAT YA SHAHADAT – SHARIA LAW OR MARTYRDOM – and sometimes black turbans, so people called them Tor Patki or the Black-Turbaned Brigade.
They looked so dark and dirty that my father’s friend described them as ‘people deprived of baths and barbers’.
Their leader was Maulana Fazlullah, a 28-year-old who used to operate the pulley chair to cross the Swat River and whose right leg dragged because of childhood polio.
He had studied in the madrasa of Maulana Sufi Mohammad, the founder of the TNSM, and married his daughter.
When Sufi Mohammad was imprisoned in a round-up of militant leaders in 2002, Fazlullah had taken over the movement’s leadership.
It was shortly before the earthquake that Fazlullah had appeared in Imam Deri, a small village just a few miles outside Mingora on the other side of the Swat River, and set up his illegal radio station.