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Islamic State Khorasan Province Releases First Video of 2022: ‘O Lions of the Tribes!’
On the 10th of January, the Islamic State Khurasan Province’s (ISKP) local official media Al-Azaim Foundation released an anticipated new video through its official and semi-official channels on Telegram and Facebook, the first one of 2022. The 20-minute-long production titled “O Lions of the Tribes!” is different from previous videos released by the propaganda mouthpiece of ISKP – which had mainly concentrated on the Taliban and Afghanistan – as this one is dedicated to Pakistan and Islamic State’s Pakistani militants.
The first part of the video features the usual ISKP propaganda against Pakistan which has frequently appeared in several books, videos, and audio statements by the group. ISKP argues that Pakistan is deprived of its Islamic character because it allows elections, political parties, and man-made laws – defined as a system originally introduced by Muhammad Ali Jinnah on behalf of the British, while it encourages nationalism. The video includes several pictures of prominent Pakistani politicians, such as President Musharraf and Prime Ministers Raza Gilani, Nawaz Sharif, and Imran Khan shaking hands and embracing fellow world leaders of such renown as Emanuel Macron and the last four successive US Presidents; King Muhammad Bin Salman of Saudi Arabia; President Xi Jinping of China; and UK Prime Minister David Cameron. The video also shows a clip of Pakistan and Russia’s Foreign Ministers, Qureshi and Lavrov, signing a joint statement.
At the same time, the video includes a long list of violations committed by Pakistan against Muslims, starting with the case of Aafia Siddiqui, who had been also mentioned in the first issue of Yalghar, the Islamic State’s Urdu-language magazine, launched in late April 2021. Pakistan is accused of harassing the Jamia Hafsa seminary’s female students of the Lal Masjid of Islamabad. In addition, it is also accused of arresting, killing, and handing over to the US several Taliban leaders after 2001 – when the Taliban were still following Mullah Omar’s path and waging jihad against the US, according to ISKP narrative – claiming that there is no difference between ISI and CIA. As with Pakistan, ISKP also accuses the Taliban of betraying their religion by indulging in incorrect practices and siding with Shias while at the same time conducting diplomacy with un-Islamic countries, such as China, with the Doha agreement being their primary illustration of the relationship between the US and the Emirate. Like most releases from ISKP, the Taliban are ultimately portrayed as puppets controlled by the ISI. However, one of Pakistan’s biggest crimes in the eyes of the group was to cooperate with the US in arresting and killing innocent Muslims in the tribal areas. Several videos of the Pakistani Army’s operations in the tribal areas show civilians and suspects being harassed and killed by soldiers in Swat, Bajaur, Orakzai, Mohmand, and Waziristan.
The second part of the video revolves around ISKP militants originally from Pakistan’s tribal areas. The narrator pays tribute to former TTP spokesman and prominent ISKP leader Shaikh Shahidullah Shaheed Maqbool for renewing jihad in the region under the leadership of the first ISKP Wali Hafiz Saeed Khan. Several clips from the latter speaking to TTP militants from Orakzai when he was still part of the Pakistani Taliban are featured in the video; notably, a speech where Saeed Khan claims they burned hashish as it is haram to use the money gained from selling drugs to fuel jihad – an implicit criticism against the Afghan Taliban whom ISKP always accused of harvesting opium and other drugs for income, as did Saeed Khan himself in an interview with IS magazine Dabiq.
Second, TTP Emir Hakeemullah Mehsud is also featured in the video while he supervises the execution of Colonel Imam, as he is presented as a model for militants from Waziristan in their struggle against ISI. It is important to note that in ISKP literature on the history of the Taliban, Colonel Imam is seen as the real father of the group, as in every book he is pointed to as evidence of the fact that the Taliban are a Pakistani project. Moreover, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan’s (IMU) leader Usman Ghazi – who retracted the group’s allegiance to the Taliban in order to subsequently join ISKP in 2015 – is also present while the narrator recalls the bonds between Pakistani and Uzbek fighters.
In addition, the video shows the pictures of 48 slain ISKP commanders from the tribal areas and specifically 19 from Orakzai and 11 from Bajaur constituencies. Apart from Saeed Khan and Shahidullah Shaheed, the list includes important names of the ISKP’s leaders like Gul Zaman Fateh, Jihadyar, and Sheikh Mansoor. The narrator also calls on mujahideen from Mohmand, Khyber, Bajaur, Orakzai, Waziristan, Swat, and Balochistan to join ISKP and fight against Pakistan, the international coalition against IS – headed by the US – and imposters within Pakistan. Among these, religious political parties, such as Jamiat Ulema-e Islam (JUI) and Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD, and its other related parties); the TTP (showing a picture of former JuA Emir Umar Khalid Khurasani); and Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM). Interestingly, the video does not explicitly mention TTP, while, as veteran Pakistani journalist Iftikhar Firdous argues, it dedicates several minutes to criticising the PTM, a peaceful movement that advocates for the rights of ethnic Pashtuns affected by Pakistan’s military operations in the tribal areas. “PTM is the single most vital factor that has stopped fresh recruitments for militant organisations in the tribal area”, says prominent Pakistani journalist Ihsanullah Tipu Mehsud. He argues that “TTP has been avoiding attacking PTM, but ISKP won’t hesitate at all to target PTM leadership or rallies.” The fact that ISKP is threatening PTM while only briefly addressing TTP may confirm the affinity the group has for TTP and its militants, as the second issue of Yalghar published in December hinted to in one article on TTP-Islamabad peace talks. Furthermore, as Firdous notes, the narrator himself is speaking Pashto with a Bajauri accent, suggesting the video has been produced by militants from Pakistan for potential Pakistani recruits.
Islamic State’s Pakistan Activity in 2021
The Islamic State’s 2021 activities in Pakistan saw a sharp increase compared to 2020, with 34 attacks claimed in total versus the previous year’s 12, in accordance with data collected by the author from IS weekly newsletter, al-Naba. It is worthy of mentioning that in July 2021, the Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – which has since May 2019 had been under the supervision of Islamic State’s Pakistan Province (ISPP, separated from ISKP in the same period) – was reincorporated into ISKP as per the orders of IS Central. Subsequently, all attacks conducted in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province have been claimed under ISKP, with new areas of operations, such as South and North Waziristan and Kohat. ISPP – which now claims attacks in the rest of Pakistan, mainly Balochistan and Punjab – also expanded its reach by conducting two attacks in Rawalpindi, although contested by TTP. All these attacks in new areas took place after the Taliban entered Kabul and formed the new government, in concomitance with ISKP renewed operations.