ISLAMABAD - To advance their cause and intimidate their opponents, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) Mohmand chapter has demonstrated modern sophistication in the use of social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter.
The TTP Mohmand chapter, led by Omar Khalid Khurasani, effectively uses Facebook and Twitter to release its policy statements and influence the youth or to terrify its rivals. The outfit also uploads videos, Jihadi poems and leaders’ speeches on YouTube. Dozens of Facebook and Twitter accounts, with thousands of followers, actually work as media wing for the outfit. To easily identify them among countless social media users, almost all the accounts of Omar Khalid Khurasani’s men have suffix of ‘Khurasani’ or ‘Khorasani’. Another common feature of all these accounts is the cover photo showing Omar Khalid Khurasani, also known as Omar Khalifa, with a message “To combat international secular media and awaken Muslim youth for jihad, the TTP Mohmand Chapter has established a media wing. To know about the views of Taliban or convoy your messages to its leadership please use this forum. You will get answers to all of your questions.”
Abdul Wali Khan alias Omar Khalid Khurasani is one of the dreaded leaders of TTP who was made head of the Taliban in Mohmand Agency when Baitullah Mehsud laid the foundation of the organisation in 2007. He played a key role in strengthening TTP in Mohmand, Bajaur and the adjoining settled areas of Charsadda and Peshawar. However, the military operation in 2010 forced his men to go into hiding; they are currently fighting a guerrilla war against the security forces of Pakistan. Omar Khalid Khurasani is one of the reliable commanders of Maulana Fazlullah who has played a key role in the latter’s appointment as the head of the TTP.
One of the reasons for the active media wing of Mohmand Taliban is the past relation of Abdul Wali Khan with the media. According to one of his interviews, he “remained as journalist and worked with different local and non-local newspapers. He also remained a member of Mohmand Adabi Ghuncha (a poetic guild)”.
At the moment Omer Khurasani works as spokesperson of Omar Khalid Khurasani who is also running media campaign over social media. During the recent peace talks between the government and TTP, the central media wing of TTP had issued a warning that none of the regional chapters of the outfit would be allowed to talk to media or issue statements but it was Mohmand chapter that from time to time, through social media, condemned the “killing of inmates in agencies’ custody” and claimed the killing of 22 FC personnel despite the “ceasefire”.
The Mohmand chapter of TTP not only knows the effective use of social media but also applies different tactics on how to gag the media men. Almost all the leadership of Mohmand chapter of Taliban use social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
This group also runs a quarterly magazine titled “Ihya-e-Khilafat” where top militant commanders’ interviews and analyses are published. According to its slogan, “Ihya-e-Khilafat works for the establishment of the Islamic Khilafat all over the world and combats the western media which is biased, and tries its best to present Islam as a dark and unjust faith”. They exhort readers to read Ihya-e-Khilafat and get true information about ‘Mujahedeen and real Islam.’
Omar Khalid Khurasani is the patron in chief of the magazine while Mufti Omar Zaman and Maulana Salih Qassam work as editors of the publication. When each issue is published, it appears in PDF format over all social networking pages of the Mohmand chapter of TTP.
Sajjad Mohmand, popularly known as Ihsanullah Ihsan, also belongs to the Mohmand chapter of TTP. When he was made the central spokesperson of TTP in mid-2011, Ihsanullah Ihsan introduced an email system, the usage of social media and above all the monitoring of media content on the Taliban in local and international media. He also participated in TV shows via telephone. It was the time when the journalists started getting threatening messages for ‘bad writing’ and appreciation for ‘good writing’. In July 2013, when Sajjad Mohmand was sacked as central spokesperson of TTP, he returned to Mohmand Agency and enhanced the media section of Omar Khalid Khurasani. However, at the moment, Omer Khurasani works as the media person of Mohmand Taliban but all the activities are overseen by Ihsanullah Ihsan.
Although he belongs to Swabi, Sheikh Khalid Haqqani, the deputy of Maulana Fazlullah, is associated with the Mohmand chapter of Taliban. Sheikh Khalid Haqqani issued a 28-page fatwa regarding media in the first week of January 2014 entitled ‘Haq wa Batil’ (truth and falsehood) while the subtitle is: “The historic fatwa of Shura-e-Ulema-e-Mujahedeen regarding antichrist media.” Ihsanullah Ihsan was the man behind the compilation of the fatwa and, according to sources in Taliban, he helped Haqqani in his research on different aspects of the media before issuing this fatwa. The Mohmand Taliban are also using Twitter social network to spread their message and policy statements. Omar Khorasani 1 was the official twitter account of Omar Khalid Khurasani with a large number of followers; however the account was recently blocked.
The Mohmand Taliban also upload their propaganda videos onto YouTube and other social networking sites and then share links to these pictures on Facebook and Twitter etc.