PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- A new video of Taliban members whipping men and a teenager in a tribal district has rattled Pakistan for the second time in less than a year as the military offensive against militants in South Waziristan grinds on.
A man reportedly shot the video on a mobile phone February 3, and it has since been aired by television stations and appeared on Youtube and other Internet sites.
Tribal sources in the Orakzai tribal district told Central Asia Online that a local commander of Hakeemullah Mehsud’s Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was whipping victims in the Mamozai area. Having gun-wielding militants administer corporal punishment in public is an old Taliban tactic to keep the local population "terrorised" and to portray militants as "saviours".
The video appears as confidence grows that Hakeemullah Mehsud died of wounds suffered during a January 14 missile strike on suspected hideouts of militants in the Shaktoee area of South Waziristan.
"As you know, the Taliban do beat people in areas they control if they suspect anyone of any criminal acts, like spying or violating the militants' stricter version of Islamic law. People accused of serious crimes are often killed," a senior journalist in Hangu, bordering the Orakzai tribal district, told Central Asia Online on condition of anonymity after watching the video.
The video makes clear the grip of the Taliban on that tribal district. The federal government is currently using air power to soften up militant positions before sending ground troops to take hold of the region. It has served as a base from which militants attempt to penetrate into the Khyber tribal district, which borders Peshawar.
On April 4 last year, a similar video shook Pakistani TV viewers. In that video, a Taliban commander flogged a 17-year-old girl being held face down in a public space in Kabal tehsil of the Swat Valley. Government forces later drove the militants out of the valley.
"Leave me for a moment. You can beat me again later", the girl screamed in the video.
In the latest video, Orakzai Taliban punished several men for "speaking out against the militants", according to local residents. The militants also flogged a teenager for not growing a beard and another man for "not praying".
Dr. Said Alam Mehsud, an active member of Amn Tehreek or the "Peace Movement" mobilising public opinion against growing militancy on Pukhtoon lands, said the militants released the video to "terrorise" the local population. Amn Tehreek is a conglomerate of anti-Taliban liberals, civil society members, political party members, lawyers, doctors, journalists and students.
"The Taliban use different methods to keep the local population in a state of terror, and they include killings, beheadings and lashings of opponents in public," the Amn Tehreek member told Central Asia Online.
The militants, conscious of public opinion, are complaining about the broadcast of the video. Militant commander Mullah Said Khan issued a warning to a Pakistani TV channel last week for using the video as "propaganda" against the Taliban.
The News quoted him as acknowledging ownership of the video. However, he called it "an old one". He said such a video "does change public opinion" but "the Taliban are least concerned about this."
The audience, in the video, mostly old men and young boys, watched the beatings in silence.
In the video, somebody offscreen announces before the audience leaves that the militants will detain "an old man with a white beard" for five days in order to observe his "behaviour". The announcement did not explain the old man's offence.
Local residents identified the stocky-looking bearded man whipping the men and the teenager as Mullah Toofan, a local Taliban commander in the Orakzai tribal region.