Ever since its creation in December 2007, Pakistan’s most vicious terrorist group the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has been at odds with the country’s mainstream media. At times coalescing and often intimidating, particularly against journalists whose parent companies would deny space for the TTP propaganda. Ironically, in the absence of stringent enforcement of regulations of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), the terrorist outfit often got live media coverage on mainstream channels. But it would turn nasty, issuing immediate threats if blacked out by the head offices of state and private media houses.

Increasingly under pressure because of the shrinking space in the mainstream media, the TTP even advertised “hit lists” comprising names of leading journalists and anchors who it said were anti-TTP. The TTP views Pakistani media with utter contempt and considers most of the TV news channels are biased and distorting the ‘message of Islam’. While on the other hand it considers itself as promoting and propagating Islamic values through its actions (and also of its affiliated groups).

Pakistan is definitely the most dangerous place for journalists. Since 2002, fifty journalists[1] have been killed in Pakistan mostly by Al-Qaeda, Taliban and other terrorist groups active in Pakistan [2]

The TTP followed it up with a Fatwa (religious edict) in January 2014.

Issued by its Mujahedeen Ulema Council, the Fatwa was an obvious attempt to bully the media and make it toe the TTP directives.  The Council also tried to persuade journalists to follow the TTP path and give up ‘Kufar’ (anti-Islam/infidels). The Fatwa asks for stern action against journalists found involved in Marjaf, Muqatil and Sai-Bil-Fasad.

According to the TTP spokesperson:

“Murjif is someone who engages in propaganda against Muslims during a war between Islam and disbelief,……..Muqatil is someone who incites disbelievers and their allies to act against Muslims ……. while Sai-Bil-Fasadincludes those who corrupt Muslim society through different means such as replacing the Islamic ideology with secular ideologies.”

He further elaborated:

“For a long time, we have been asking the media to be impartial. We are not forcing it to change beliefs. We are simply asking the media to be fair in coverage, despite the tall claims of truth and nothing but the truth, the media has been acting as propagandists.[3]”

The TTP’s apprehensions concerning media

Interestingly, major points of the Fatwa are based on certain allegations:

  • The journalists are marjaf (propagate messages against Islam and mujahedeen).
  • They are muqatil (instigating people against the mujahedeenand derogatory terms such as militants, miscreants and terrorist for mujahedeen fighting against the forces of kufr).
  • Journalists are spreading sai-bil-fisad(creating panic and misinterpreting the message of God).
  • Media is promoting western vulgarity such as showing unveiled women in their programs and advertisements.
  • The media is hand in glove with what they perceive as evil western forces and promotes their concepts such as globalization, nudity, culture of dance and music.
  • The media in Pakistan promotes anti-Pashtun culture, while accusing the Taliban for destroying core Pashtun tribal values (pashtunwali code).
  • The Media is following agendas of munafiqeen (hypocrites).
  • The Pakistani media uses words like ‘killed’ for mujahedeen whereas it uses ‘martyred’ for fallen Pakistan security personnel of police and military.
  • That media persons, reporters, TV talk show anchors, and editors, side with the West and secular forces.
  • That media promotes nudity and vulgarity.
  • That media is promoting democracy in Pakistan[4].

Punitive Actions

While issuing the Fatwa against the journalists the Mujahedeen Ulema Council of the TTP has also warned of punitive actions decided against “devious” journalists working against their interests in line with the fatwa in due course of time, as and when they come to power:

  • After establishing the Islamic Caliphate State and implementation of Sharia laws in the country, the said Islamic government will force the journalists into exile.
  • They will be condemned.
  • Will be arrested and tried in Sharia courts established under the Islamic State.
  • The journalists will be strangled to death after being sentenced to death in the Islamic courts.
  • In case a court could not run separate trial for every journalist, then a general order will be issued for indiscriminate killing of journalists where ever they are located by the mujahedeen forces[5].

The TTP, often through its website and spokespersons, also accuses journalists and anchor-persons for not informing Pakistani masses about the ideology of the TTP and its real objectives concerning the implementation of Sharia laws in Pakistan and turning Pakistan into an Islamic Caliphate.

Conclusion

The TTP has realized the importance of media since its inception in Dec 2007[6]. The first Emir of TTP Baitullah Mehsud relied heavily on his media cell for the propagation of TTP’s activities. After Baitullah’s death in a US drone strike in August 2009, the new Emir Hakeemullah Mehsud continued to rally messages and harassing media personnel in Pakistan, who were reporting and writing against the TTP. The current situation has seen division and split  in the TTP after the death of Hakeemullah Mehsud in November  2013, as the two major factions are now led by Omar Khalid Khurasani (heading the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar) and Fazalullah heading the TTP (Fazalullah faction). The split and the military operation affected the TTP media communications but the merger of some of TTP splinters in March 2015 may help the outfit re-energize its media campaign.

The Umar Media (media wing of the TTP) announced the merger by issuing the following statement:

“We congratulate the Ummat-e-Muslima [the Muslim community] in common and especially the Mujahideen of Pakistan for the coalition of strong Jihadi groups, Tehreek-e-Taliban [Movement of the Taliban] Pakistan Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, Tehreek-e-Lashkar-e-Islam, and Tehreek-e-Taliban on one name Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan against the Taghooti [satanic], ​​Infidel, Democratic, un-Islamic system, and the Na-Pak Murtad [a Muslim who rejects Islam] Army,”[7]

Article is written by Dr. Farhan Zahid

Dr. Farhan Zahid earned his Ph.D. in Counter Terrorism Studies from the University of Brussels, Belgium. Dr. Zahid has authored more than 20 research papers and articles. He writes on counter-terrorism, al-Qaeda, Pakistani al- Qaeda-linked groups, Islamist violent non-state actors in Pakistan, jihadi ideologies and the Afghan Taliban.

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[1]IrshadMastoi, Online International News Network, ARY News, August 28, 2014, in Quetta, Pakistan, GhulamRasool, Online International News Network, August 28, 2014, in Quetta, Pakistan, Shan Dahar,AbbTakk Television, January 1, 2014, in Larkana, Pakistan, AyubKhattak,Karak Times, October 11, 2013, in Karak District, Pakistan, AslamDurrani,Daily Pakistan, April 16, 2013, in Peshawar, Pakistan, MirzaIqbalHussain, News Network International, January 10, 2013, in Quetta, Pakistan, SaifurRehman,Samaa TV, January 10, 2013, in Quetta, Pakistan, Imran Shaikh,Samaa TV,  January 10, 2013, in Quetta, Pakistan, Saqib Khan,Ummat

November 22, 2012, in Karachi, Pakistan, RehmatullahAbid,Dunya News TV, Intikhaab, November 18, 2012, in Panjgur, Baluchistan, Pakistan, Mushtaq Khand, Dharti Television Network and Mehran, October 7, 2012, in Khairpur, Pakistan, Abdul HaqBaloch, ARY Television, September 29, 2012, in Khuzdar, Pakistan, Abdul QadirHajizai, WASH TV, May 28, 2012, in Quetta, Pakistan, RazzaqGul, Express News TV, May 19, 2012, in Turbat, Pakistan, Mukarram Khan Aatif, Freelance,  January 17, 2012, in Shabqadar, Pakistan,JavedNaseer Rind,Daily Tawar,  November 2011, in Khuzdar, Pakistan,Faisal Qureshi,The London Post, October 7, 2011, in Lahore, Pakistan,Shafiullah Khan,The News, June 17, 2011, in Wah Cantonment, Pakistan,Asfandyar Khan,Akhbar-e-Khyber, June 11, 2011, in Peshawar, Pakistan,Saleem Shahzad,Asia Times Online, May 29 or 30, 2011, in Mandi Bahauddin, Pakistan,Nasrullah Khan Afridi, Pakistan Television and Mashriq, May 10, 2011, in Peshawar, Pakistan,Wali Khan Babar, Geo TV, January 13, 2011, in Karachi, Pakistan,Pervez Khan, Waqt TV

December 6, 2010, in Ghalanai, Pakistan,Abdul Wahab, Express News, December 6, 2010, in Ghalanai, Pakistan,Misri Khan,Ausaf and Mashriq, September 14, 2010, in Hangu, Pakistan,Ejaz Raisani, Samaa TV

September 6, 2010, in Quetta, Pakistan,Ejazul Haq, City-42 TV, May 28, 2010, in Lahore, Pakistan,Ghulam Rasool Birhamani,Daily Sindhu Hyderabad, May 9 or 10, 2010, in Wahi Pandhi, Pakistan,Azamat Ali Bangash, Samaa TV, April 17, 2010, in Orakzai, Pakistan,Malik Arif, Samaa TV, April 16, 2010, in Quetta, Pakistan,Janullah Hashimzada, freelance,  August 24, 2009, in Jamrud, Pakistan,Musa Khankhel, Geo TV and The News

February 18, 2009, in Swat, Pakistan,Tahir Awan, freelance,  January 4, 2009, in Dera Ismail Khan, Pakistan,Mohammad Imran, Express TV,  January 4, 2009, in Dera Ismail Khan, Pakistan,Abdul Razzak Johra, Royal TV

November 3, 2008, in Punjab, Pakistan,Abdul Aziz Shaheen,Azadi, August 29, 2008, in Swat, Pakistan,Mohammed Ibrahim, Express TV and Daily Express,May 22, 2008, in Khar, Pakistan,Siraj Uddin,The Nation

February 29, 2008, in Mingora, Pakistan,Chishti Mujahid,Akbar-e-Jehan, February 9, 2008, in Quetta,Pakistan,Zubair Ahmed Mujahid,Jang,  November 23, 2007, in Mirpur Khas, Pakistan,Muhammad Arif, ARY Television, October 19, 2007, in Karachi, Pakistan,Javed Khan,Markaz and DM Digital TV, July 3, 2007, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Noor Hakim Khan,Daily Pakistan, June 2, 2007, in Bajaur, Pakistan,Mehboob Khan, freelance, April 28, 2007, in Charsadda, Pakistan,Hayatullah Khan, freelance, June 16, 2006, in Miran Shah, Pakistan,Munir Ahmed Sangi, Kawish Television Network, May 29, 2006, in Larkana, Pakistan,Allah Noor, Khyber TV, February 7, 2005, in Wana, Pakistan,Amir Nowab, Associated Press Television News and Frontier Post, February 7, 2005, in Wana, Pakistan,Sajid Tanoli,Shumal, January 29, 2004, in Mansehra, Pakistan,Fazal Wahab, freelance, January 21, 2003, in Mingora, Pakistan,Shahid Soomro,Kawish, October 20, 2002, in Kandhkot, Pakistan, and Daniel Pearl,The Wall Street Journal Date unknown in 2002, in Karachi, Pakistan

[2]The first one was Wall Street Journal’s correspondent Daniel Pearl, who was kidnapped and later beheaded by Al-Qaeda’s military commander and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammad in Karachi. Pearl was kidnapped by Harkatul Mujahedeen in collusion with Al-Qaeda Core, based in tribal areas of Pakistan. For details about journalists killed in Pakistan since Pearl’s murder in 2002 visit https://www.cpj.org/killed/asia/pakistan/

[3]Hasan Abdullah, “Media now in TTP crosshairs”, Dawn, January 23, available at: http://www.dawn.com/news/1082132

[4] “On media”, Ihyae-e-Khilafat (Official TTP Magazine) January 2013 Issue, p.7

[5] Ibid, Ihyae-e-Khilafat pp.8-13

“[6]Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan”Mapping Militant Organizations, Stanford University, available at: http://web.stanford.edu/group/mappingmilitants/cgi-bin/groups/view/105,

[7] Bill Roggio, “Pakistani jihadist groups, Lashkar-i-Islam merge into the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan”, The Long War Journal, March 12, 2015, available at: http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2015/03/pakistani-jihadist-groups-lashkar-i-islam-merge-into-the-movement-of-the-taliban-in-pakistan.php

Area 14/8

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