Taliban have threatened media organizations for “quoting out of context” their spokesman’s video statement in which he had likened those who praise the US and criticize the Taliban to those who praise Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and criticise Pakistan’s cricket captain Misbahul Haq.
The 17-minute video recording was released to present the Taliban’s outlook on the future of talks with the government, Pakistan and its politics, and the role of the armed forces. But what grabbed media attention was a two minute portion in which their spokesman used a cricket analogy to defend the controversial statement of Jamaat-e-Islami leader Munawar Hassan that Pakistani soldiers who died fighting the Taliban were not martyrs.
“There is this Indian player called Tendulkar. He is being exceedingly praised by the Pakistani media and people. At the same time the media showed disapproval of Misbahul Haq. Even though Tendulkar is a great sportsman, you should not praise him because that is unpatriotic. Instead, you should praise Misbah despite the fact that he is a bad player, because he is ultimately a Pakistani,” said Shahidullah Shahid, the spokesman of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). “Those who praise the soldiers fighting for America, secularism, democracy and British-made laws are like those who lauded Tendulkar instead of Misbah.”
In the same video, he praised Tehrik-e-Insaaf leader Imran Khan for blocking NATO supplies to Afghanistan because the move was hurting US interests, adding that the Taliban had developed a soft corner for Khan because of the move.
This is not the first time that the TTP has openly threatened media organizations. After the coverage of the shooting of Malala Yousufzai last year, it was reported that their late emir Hakimullah Mehsud personally gave orders to his subordinates to attack the media in cities including Lahore, Karachi, Rawalpindi and Islamabad.
Peshawar-based journalist Mushtaq Yousafzai, who broke the news about Taliban’s new threats, said the TTP Shura met last week and discussed how it would respond to the negative publicity their cricket statement was getting. “They are meeting again this week and will decide the course of action,” he said. “The Shura is very angry with the way the media presented Shahidullah Shahid’s comments.” It is however divided on whether all journalists should be targeted. “Yes, Taliban are very serious this time and the Shura will decide whether they take on the whole journalist community or specifically target some journalists who are considered anti-Taliban.”
A commander associated with the Hafiz Gul Bahadur group said that Taliban were very sensitive about their image in the media and that was the reason they had a well-equipped studio and media production and monitoring teams in Miranshah and Peshawar.
They believe some journalists deliberately misquoted Shahidullah Shahid and they are already known to be anti-Taliban, the commander said.
Shahidullah Shahid’s cricket statement was reported globally. Some reports said they had opened a new front after battling girls’ education, polio vaccination, government functionaries and the security forces.