Pakistani Taliban Videos Posted On Mainstream News Site

[Chipotle Mystery] One of the difficulties in studying militant groups in Pakistan is that there aren’t a lot, if any, forums dedicated to these groups that are affiliated with the Taliban. Most Taliban-related information that is available in forums comes through Al-Qaeda clearinghouses like Al-Sahab, though smaller studios occasionally have videos that make it to the Internet (these were more common in the past). News about the activities of the Pakistani Taliban generally comes from the media and we have very few “primary sources” from such groups.  Although it is well known that they do produce and distribute tapes in Pakistan, I must admit from personal experience that I was unable to locate any when I was in Pakistan a few months ago.

Asia Times Online has posted two videos from the Pakistani Taliban today. Syed Saleem Shahzad has alluded to these in his recent posts. They’re both interesting videos and even though one they lack the polish seen in Al-Qaeda video, they are clearly influenced by these productions; the latter video even includes Arabic-language hymns. The first video (“Recruiting”) is a recruitment video with English subtitles in the first portion. It appears to have been produced in late 2007 and takes aim at the Pakistani government and military, portraying them as apostates and slaves of the United States while lauding the piety of militants. Such propaganda has been effective as demonstrated by reports of low morale among the largely Pashtun soldiers sent to fight Pashtun militants and continued opposition to attacks against militants among elements of the Pakistani populace.

The second video (“Battlefield”) is especially interesting to long-time observers of such groups as it is published by Ummat Studios. Ummat appeared to have stopped publishing videos in 2005 after Nek Muhammad Wazir, a pro-Taliban militant from Waziristan, was killed following an insurgency in that region. The studio was thought to have been affiliated with him, and his death appeared to have ended its run. In the past, I have only seen two Urdu-language videos put out by this studio on the Internet, and I believe it published a number of Pashto-language videos.

Upon viewing the video, one might think it is old.  But during the second segment, the Urdu narrator (who sounds exactly like the narrator from older Ummat videos) mentions Baitullah Mehsud and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The TTP was not officially formed until late 2007, and Mehsud did not become prominent until sometime in 2006. Mehsud also belongs to a tribe that rivals Nek Muhammad’s (despite the stated universal Islamic character of the Taliban, it remains a distinctly Pashtun entity, and internal Pashtun tribal differences remain an exploitable weakness).  In fact, Muhammad’s tribe appears to be now led by Hafiz Gul Bahadur, a pro-Taliban militant from North Waziristan, who has not joined the TTP and appears to have a personal rivalry with Mehsud).

The end of the video confirms its recent vintage and is dated to February 2008. Unlike the first video it has no English subtitles and most of the dialog is in Pashto, but it has some violent scenes of battles against Pakistani forces, apparently in early 2008 in various locales in Waziristan. The use of the Ummat Studio brand in the latter video means that it either never went out of business (perhaps it only stopped posting videos to the Internet) or it has been brought back to life by Mehsud.  Either way, it shows a growing media awareness among the Pakistani Taliban.

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