Taliban propaganda keeps getting better, and now its become as good as that of the so-called Islamic State. A new 16 minute long video released on Twitter and other jihadi websites on Saturday, shows — with astonishing videography — influential former Pakistani Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid and other militants passing through a rugged mountainous area on horseback, waving ISIS flags.
Here is a link to the video from the renewed and improved media cell of the terror group. Children are shown in the forefront of what the militants claim is the beheading of a Pakistani soldier, to portray either that they don’t care about the psychological effects on the children seeing it live, or to portray that these children are as active in their propaganda as adults.
While many allegiances have come forth before, this one is the most significant among them and perhaps the most worrisome too. After the attack on a private school run by the Pakistani Army in Peshawar that killed over 140, mostly children, the Pakistani military and civilian government swore to take on all Taliban, good or bad. Without the support or genuine permission by elements within the Pakistani government, these groups have been able to do much less than they would with the support that they got from the state for many years, especially after 2002. Now that the Pakistani military announced that it will take off its gloves in dealing with all militants, it has effectively deserted them, making many of these groups feel neglected and short of cooperation.
Wall chalking and allegiances have punctured the air for people in Pakistan who are exhausted from the brunt of militancy at home. Worrying about the fate of minorities—including Shias and Christians, who have suffered first hand from the butchery of Sunni militant groups—the local media is pulsating with new questions. Militant groups in Pakistan have also been responsible for getting the country in trouble with its neighbors like in the case of high profile attacks abroad such as the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008 (also known as 26/11), and several others in Afghanistan. The recent blast on the Pakistani side of the India-Pakistan land border at Wagah for which the Taliban claimed responsibility was also a remarkable attack to show the ambitions of these militants groups who have shown that they will essentially do anything to gain attention.
India and Afghanistan are therefore nervous about ISIS’ forays into South Asia, knowing there is evidence of sympathetic elements within their own crop of militants, too. In Afghanistan, it has been recently revealed that solid evidence of an ISIS presence has been discovered by government agencies .
The Islamic State in South Asia would be encumbering for both internal and external security in the region. The group’s exponential tendency for violence and desire to conquer territory might spill over and hurt the whole region, whether it successfully achieves its territorial goals or not.
Meanwhile, graffiti supporting the Islamic State in Pakistan — which may or may not be from the group itself — is worrisome in the sense that it could drive further militancy in a country that is already home to at least 48 militant groups. The Islamic State seems to be gaining at least virtual support from many local militants.
For South Asian militant groups to declare their allegiance to ISIS is quite a landmark. One imagines that they would rather want to maintain their own rule in the region, thereby keeping their autonomy.
These growing declarations of allegiance, if anything, show one important fact about local groups in South Asia: they are losing their strength and their prowess. The high maintenance propaganda efforts are further a sign that they have to take creative measures to now prove they still exist.
Attacks on schools are easy, and Pakistan’s militants learnt after attacking Malala Yousafzai that these sorts of attacks will be powerful shows of strength. And yes, it worked. The high profile attack at the Peshawar school may look good on the Taliban’s resume of terror, but it was a rather easy military operation and also shows the Taliban’s declining capacity in terms of what it can really do in the region.
If the Islamic State is really to carry out operations in Pakistan or Afghanistan, it would mean that local militants are now ready to give away their power to another group — or at least willing to share it. This is a failure and ultimately a show of weakness, not strength.