In the third part of this series, Muhammad Amir Rana writes about the intense propaganda machinery managed by the militant groups of the Punjab.
The message of â€˜jihadâ€™ against an assortment of enemies, mainly the West and sectarian and religious minorities, has been spread through newspapers, journals, radio, websites, CDs, DVDs. For instance, the media played an important role during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s. The manner in which the media projected the conflict boosted the image of the Mujahedeenand glorified their activities, helping them gain moral and economic support from the international community. It also attracted Muslims around the world to take part in jihad physically, or contribute financially towards it. Then during jihad in Kashmir, militant media flourished into a â€˜Jihad media industryâ€™. Publications about the Kashmir jihad effort are easily available in the market. Religious publications are not a new phenomenon in Pakistan. Despite their sectarian and political affiliations, the sphere of these publications is wide â€“ spanning intellectual debates, religious reforms, dialogue with other faiths, and socio-political issues â€“ but their readership is very limited.
The audience mainly consists of religious scholars, intellectuals, journalists, writers and students of the relevant subject. Militantsâ€™ publications also play a pivotal role in attracting the youth to join their outfits for jihad. The militant media is very narrow in its vision and yet its target audience is more general. It has not only damaged the image of more serious religious publications, but also dealt a fatal blow to the professional ethics of the mainstream Urdu media. Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), in its report â€œUnderstanding the Militantsâ€™ Media in Pakistanâ€ reveals that up until 1989, there were 150 jihad publications in Pakistan. Most of them were published from Peshawar and Quetta, capitals respectively of the KP and Balochistan; provinces that border Afghanistan. These two cities were the hub of Afghan, foreign and Pakistani militant groups, and recruitment centers for volunteers coming from all over the world. At the same time, dozens of jihadi media products, mainly of Pakistani jihad groups, were being published from Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad. About 100 jihad monthlies and 12 weeklies were being published in Peshawar, Quetta and Islamabad in 1990. These publications were produced in several languages. 25 were in Urdu, 50 in Pashtu and Persian, 12 in Arabic and 10 in English. They were not only being published in Pakistan but also in Iran, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Norway, Australia and Switzerland.
In the 1990s, Kashmiri militant groups got into â€˜jihad journalismâ€™ and were publishing 22 periodicals in 1994. After 9/11 most of the militant outfits concentrated on the Punjab and shifted their media houses to the province. The circulation and outreach of the militantsâ€™ press is considerably increasing in the Punjab and 70% of militant media production is based in the Punjab. Six major militant outfits â€“ Jamaatud-Daâ€™waa (Lashkar-e-Taiba), TehrikKhuddam-ul-Islam (Jaish-e-Muhammad), Al-Rasheed Trust, JamaatulMujahideen, HizbulMujahideen and Sipah-e-Sahaba â€“ publish a wide range of periodicals, specifically to influence the minds of children, youth, women or the general reader. These outfits use four languages; Urdu, English, Arabic and Sindhi, for dissemination of their message domestically and abroad.TheJamaatud-Daâ€™waa publishes nine media products, Al-Rasheed Trust six, Jaish-e-Muhammad four, and HizbulMujahideen, JamaatulMujahideen and Sipah-e-Sahaba publish two each. But these are their official publications. The number exceeds 50 if publications by like-minded madrassas or supporters are included. Other militant outfits also have their media sections.
The Jamaat-e-Islami and its subsidiary groups have at least 22 media publications to promote a jihadi outlook. These groups have the following publications: 1. The Jamaatud-Daâ€™waaâ€™s (JD) monthly publications are Voice of Islam in English, Al-Anfal in Arabic, Al-Harmaeen in Urdu, Tayyibaat in Urdu for women, RozatulAtfal for children, Zarb-e-Taiba in Urdu for youth and students, and Babul Islam in Sindhi. It also publishes weekly Jarar in Urdu. 2. The Jaish-e-Muhammad (JM) publishes weekly Al-Qalam in Urdu and English, monthly AyeshatulBinat in Urdu for women and weekly MusalmanBachy for children.3. Al-Rasheed Trust, ostensibly a charity organization, advocates a jihadi view of life through its daily publication Islam and weekly Zarb-e-Momin in Urdu, and monthly Truth in English. These publications support Taliban, JamaatulFurqan, Sipah-e-Sahaba, and occasionally Lashkar-e-Taiba. 4. Monthly Khilafat-e-Rashida and monthly Aab-e-Hayat are regular publications of the Sipah-e-Sahaba.5. HarkatulMujahideen, Harkatul Jihad-e-Islami, Al-BadarMujahideen and JamaatulFurqan are also publishing monthlies but these are not regular. Apart from these regular publications, militant outfits publish books, pamphlets and stickers. A new trend is emerging in militant media, which can best be described as a â€˜secret pressâ€™, mainly run by the so called Punjabi Taliban or outlawed sectarian terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi or Al-Qaeda. These groups mainly depend on online resources for disseminating their publications, or their publications are distributed only in selected areas.
For example, monthly Al-Hateen , a mouthpiece of Al-Qaeda and its Pakistani allies, is only available online and evidence suggests that the magazine is disseminated in selected areas of Karachi and South Punjab. Illyas Kashmiri, a commander of the Punjabi Taliban and close aide of Al-Qaeda is spreading his message through monthly bulletins in Punjab, Sindh and Kashmir. Most of the Pakistani Taliban groups have their media centers, which release CDs, DVDs which also have online editions. The expansion of media controlled by militant groups shows that the challenge of tackling the problem in Punjab and Pakistan is becoming complex. Although, the government has more than once attempted to ban many of these publications, they resurface under different names.
The challenge facing law enforcement agencies is two-fold:1. Law enforcement agencies have no mechanism to ban these publications. When a banned publication reappears, the process to ban it again takes more than eight months; 2. Banned organizations have ostensibly transformed into charities and under law their publications cannot be banned until these charities are declared defunct. Jaish-e-Muhammad is now operating as Al-Rehmat Trust, Lashkar-e-Taiba as Jamaatud-Daâ€™awa and JamaatulFurqan as Al-Asar Trust. Legislation is required to ban or restrict their activities and the government is reluctant to introduce such legislation due to pressure from the clergy. Specific legislation about radical groups and charities is the best way to curb their operations. A code of ethics for religious publications should focus on banning appeals soliciting donations and advertisements that attract youth towards jihad.