November 16, 2012 Special Dispatch No. 5055

In Article On Pakistani Website, MEMRI South Asia Director Analyzes Taliban's Emerging Strategy Against Liberal Journalists In Pakistan

November 16, 2012
Pakistan | Special Dispatch No. 5055

In an article titled "Taliban's Coming War Against Journalists," MEMRI South Asia Studies Project Director Tufail Ahmad examined a recent document released jointly by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), justifying the October 9, 2012 militant attack on Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai.

Malala Yousafzai was attacked by the Taliban for defending Pakistani girls' right to education through a series of anonymous online diaries, which were published in early 2009 when the Taliban militants led by TTP commander Maulana Fazlullah were enforcing Islamic shari'a rule in Pakistan's Swat and neighboring districts. Maulana Fazlullah, who had called for a total ban on girls' education, is currently in hiding somewhere in eastern Afghanistan.

The TTP-IMU document is unique in that it develops the meaning of war to include liberal Pakistani journalists and activists in its ambit, arguing that liberal activists like Malala Yousafzai are armed combatants and must be targeted.

Following are excerpts from the article:[1]

Taliban Pamphlet "Re-Imagines The Nature Of War In Terms Of The Media's Role In Contemporary Times, And Considers Media Members Armed Combatants"

"For two successive years, in 2010 and 2011, Pakistan was declared the most dangerous country to work in for journalists – both by the New York-based Committee to Project Journalists (CPJ) and the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Six Pakistani journalists were killed in 2010 and seven in 2011, including investigative reporter Syed Saleem Shahzad who is believed to have been picked up by Pakistan's dreaded Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and shot dead for revealing jihadi forces' stronghold in the Pakistani military. Now, a Taliban pamphlet, justifying the October 9 militant attack on liberal Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai, offers insights into how the jihadi forces are broadening the sphere of war to include reporters and television presenters in its ambit.

"Issued jointly by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the pamphlet is titled 'Aqeedon ka Tasadum' ('Clash of Faiths') and is aimed at countering the upsurge of popular support in Pakistan for Malala. The key point about this document is that it re-imagines the nature of war in terms of the media's role in contemporary times, and it considers media members armed combatants. While a media front in the war of ideas should mean that the Taliban responds to arguments, the pamphlet indicates that the militants plan to use bombs and guns to silence the liberal Pakistani media. It engenders a critical situation in Pakistan where it is already difficult for journalists and liberal activists to state their viewpoints in the public space."

Taliban Pamphlet: "Those Who Say That She [Malala Yousafzai] Was Barehanded And Unarmed Are Trying To Hoodwink The People"

"The TTP-IMU pamphlet poses a question: 'Was Malala unarmed?' It responds: 'In present times, the media has taken the shape of a dangerous weapon. Language is used in media and its wounds are more fatal than the wounds of spears. The pen is used, whose blade is sharper than a sword.' In the Taliban's reckoning, Malala is an armed media practitioner engaged in a war of ideas against Islam....

"[T]he Taliban think that Malala's diaries were aimed at defaming Islam. 'Those who say that she was barehanded and unarmed,' the pamphlet notes, 'are trying to hoodwink the people. Malala was fighting against the Taliban with words and pen.'

"In the past few years, various Taliban commanders have threatened journalists to exert pressure or over the issues of fairness and disputes about casualty figures. However, the pamphlet indicates that the Taliban are now considering pen and ink as weapons. It also means that in coming days liberal activists in Pakistan and journalists will encounter serious threats to life (the assassinations of Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti are still fresh in our minds) – also because the Taliban and other jihadist forces are set to be strengthened by 2014, when the U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan."

"The [Taliban] Pamphlet Clarifies: 'War Is Fought In Three Ways – Firstly, By Hands; Secondly, Through Tongue, And The Nib Of A Pen Is Included In It..."

"According to the CPJ, 46 journalists have been killed in Pakistan since 1992, 26 of them being murdered with the culprits enjoying impunity from prosecution. Throughout Pakistan, journalists face threats from various quarters: from the sectarian [anti-Shia] outfits like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ); from the country's spy agencies such as the ISI, especially in Baluchistan; from the Taliban and other jihadi organizations in the tribal region; and from political parties across the nation. But fatal attacks on Pakistani journalists have originated mainly from political groups in the recent past.

"Speaking at a September 27 seminar in Washington DC, CJP Asia Program Director Bob Dietz remarked: 'If you are a journalist in Pakistan, it is more dangerous to cover politics [than war].' Speaking at the same seminar, Awais Saleem, a journalist with the Dunya News of Pakistan, remarked that more than 50 percent of journalists killed in Pakistan in recent years were targeted for covering political issues....

"On October 14, an intelligence assessment prepared by the National Crisis Management Cell (NCMC) of the Pakistani interior ministry, was sent to the security agencies across Pakistan, warning that TTP Emir Hakimullah Mehsud has compiled a list of targets and has directed the Taliban fighters to launch attacks against Pakistani and international media organizations in the country. It is believed that several top journalists and television presenters in Pakistan are on the target."

"This marks a turning point in the TTP's thinking that the media is a battlefront. Among all the Pakistani jihadi groups, it is perhaps only the TTP that does not have a dedicated media outlet, while statements by its commanders are released through Al-Qaeda's jihadi Internet forums. The nine-page TTP-IMU pamphlet, which was sent as a PDF attachment to journalists in Pakistan and also released through Yahoo groups in the wake of the Malala attack, reveals the new TTP strategy, is aimed at subjugating Pakistan's independent media and liberal voices."

"In... This New Taliban Strategy, Even The Nib Of A Pen Is A Weapon"

"Should Pakistani journalists and liberal advocates worry? The answer is yes. In the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATAs) of Pakistan, where the TTP began creating space for itself in the years after 9/11, it began doing so by target-killing the maliks (tribal elders), who formed the basis of decision-making in the tribal society. Over the years, the TTP eliminated the tribal leadership. Now, it appears to have arrived at a similar strategy with regard to the Pakistani media, considering it an armed front in a war against Islam and deciding to eliminate liberal journalists, at least those who are vocal against the Taliban and other jihadist forces.

"In this new Taliban strategy, even the nib of a pen is a weapon and is to be targeted. The pamphlet clarifies: 'war is fought in three ways – firstly, by hands; secondly, through tongue and the nib of a pen is included in it; and thirdly, by wealth.'"


[1] (Pakistan), November 9, 2012, Online Issue No. 126. The original English of the article has been lightly edited for standardization.

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