For the third time in a matter of months, contradictory statements have been issued by the Pakistani authorities and the CIA on the one hand, and the Pakistani Taliban movement on the other. As soon as Islamabad announces the killing of Pakistani Taliban Chief Hakimullah Mehsud, who is also an Al Qaeda ally and the prime suspect of a series of bombings and security operations in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Taliban rushes to release a video or voice recording on the internet featuring Mehsud refuting claims of his death and emphasizing that new operations are on the way. Mehsud’s fate was a source of controversy over the past period after some reports indicated that he was the target of two drone attacks.
When the Pakistani authorities distribute photos of raids on mountainous areas to confirm the elimination of the Pakistani Taliban leadership, the movement reacts by releasing footage to refute claims that the man has been killed.
Therefore, as battles and bombings continue on the streets, the media war is never far away from the AfPak front in the style of the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
It seems that the repetitive announcement of Mehsud’s killing serves as a tool to make him reappear again, and he, in fact, responds to this, unaware of the intentions of the authorities inside or outside of his country. The man loves the images and the media and is probably attempting to imitate Osama Bin Laden in his performances and his appearances in front of the camera, and admires the stories of Osama’s cruelty and tyranny towards his opponents and victims.
In dealing with the media, Hakimullah Mehsud relies on the expertise he acquired as spokesman for his predecessor Baitullah Mehsud. This role made him a well-known character as a result of his direct contact with journalists and the numerous interviews he gave. He seldom refrains from giving interviews and is at the forefront of the Taliban scene in the Waziristan province following the assassination of former leader Baitullah Mehsud.
Even in the video recording that featured the Jordanian suicide bomber Humam al Balawi, who blew himself up at a US base in Khost killing a number of CIA agents at the beginning of this year, Hakimullah Mehsud appeared next to him as if he were the godfather of that operation, even though al Balawi planned the operation alone (and this came to light later). But al Balawi wanted to butter up the Pakistani Taliban.
Both announcements (of the killing and the denial) show an apparent use of modern tools of communication as part of a battle that should first start with verifying whether or not it’s worth engaging in. To make the media a tool for exchanging messages in such an overt manner is to move away from the real professional essence of what the media is intended for. But it seems that this is not the case when it comes to the issue of the Taliban.
Is it down to the media to carry out this task? Is exclusiveness more important than verifying news? Or should verification and the truth take precedence over the matter of getting a scoop?