TTP threat to media
That the Taliban have always had their sympathisers within mainstream media is not new. Some went to great lengths to prove the TTP’s Islamic credentials – one particular right-wing columnist and once a regular feature on talk shows went so far as saying that the 50,000 plus dead were God’s punishment for our divergence from the faith, and blaming a foreign funded insurgency bent upon weakening the state really missed the point. This sentiment, of mainstreaming the religious, even militant, right, gained unprecedented momentum in the days of the talks with the Taliban, when popular media went out of its way to accommodate far-right sentiments. And while they could still not avoid the military operation, the campaign did succeed in confusing the periphery, where low literacy levels have left much confusion about grey areas separating militant from orthodox interpretation of Islam.
But largely the media has been at the forefront of the long battle against the Taliban, and that too is not new news. In the wake of the North Waziristan Operation, however, it has lent complete support to the military. Even the most pro-talks and anti-action voices, in the polity and the press, have chosen to take the backseat as the forces enjoy near complete public, and hence, very prominent media support. And, of course, this fact is not lost on the TTP. Unable to live up to their blowback promises so far, they have come out with an open threat against the media. If journalists do not stop criticising the mujahideen, it is warned, nothing will stop the holy warriors from punishing them.
This should raise more urgent alarm bells within the military than the media. Sure, journalists will suffer more directly if any attacks do materialise, but the military will bear the bigger brunt of it. So far, everybody has gone along with the ISPR, that Zarb e Azb is going along as planned. But slightly more disturbing news has also filtered through; that the baddest guys crossed over to Afghanistan long ago, that civilians have suffered the worst of the operation, etc. Also, news reports of acid being thrown at women in Quetta and Lahore, and Sikhs attacked in Peshawar, will snowball if militants “of all colours and hues” are not really neutralised, and sooner rather than later. The military should take these threats very seriously.