A video of the aftermath of the brutal murder and public display of tribal leaders who dared to stand up to the Taliban in Swat last year has emerged.
The video, which was recently obtained by The Long War Journal, shows Swat tribal leader Pir Samiullah and two of his senior lieutenants after they were slaughtered by the Taliban in December 2008. The video was taken with a cell phone by a witness to the bloody event.
Samiullah is seen with a green headband; his body is leaned up against a wall. The bodies of his two senior most lieutenants were beheaded and hanged upside down from a pole.
Pir Samiullah after he was murdered in December 2008.
Pir Samiullah was a rival tribal and religious leader in the Matta region who rose up against Swat Taliban leaders Mullah Fazlullah and Ibn Amim, the military commander of al Qaeda’s Shadow Army in the Swat region.
According to sources in Pakistan, Samiullah incurred the wrath of Fazlullah not only for opposing Taliban rule, but Samiullah also challenged Fazlullah to a test of religious faith. Fazlullah declined the challenge and Samiullah taunted him.
Samiullah, his two senior lieutenants, and eight of his followers were killed during a Taliban assault on Dec. 16.
But displaying Samiullah and his aides’ mutilated bodies was not enough. The Taliban returned to Samiullah’s village, dug up his body, and hanged it in public.
According to sources in Matta, Pakistani troops were nearby during the assault, the displaying of the murdered bodies, and when Samiullah’s body was dug up, but refused to intervene.
Samiullah was the first tribal leader in Swat to raise a lashkar, or tribal army, to oppose the Taliban. Samiullah claimed to have organized more than 10,000 tribesmen to oppose the Taliban and protect 20 villages.
He did so when Swat was at its darkest and the Taliban seemed unstoppable. The military offensive was stalled and the government and military had lost the will to fight. Just three months after Samiullah was killed, the government ceded Swat and much of the northwest to the Taliban in the infamous Malakand Accord.
The Pakistani government touted Samiullah’s resistance to the Taliban, but refused to provide meaningful support to keep the tribal leader and his followers alive.
Pakistan declares Swat cleared, Fazlullah gravely wounded
In early May of this year, the Pakistani Army launched an operation in Swat and neighboring Buner and Dir after the Taliban sought to build on the gains in Swat and encroach on the districts right outside of Islamabad.
Nine weeks after the operation began, the Army has declared victory and claimed the district has been cleared of the Taliban. The military claimed more than 1,500 Taliban fighters out of the estimated 5,000 to 7,000 thought to be in the area were killed.
Yesterday the government claimed that Fazlullah was seriously wounded during a recent clash. The government has reported Fazlullah killed or wounded several times since the operation began in early May.
Fazlullah and his 20 most senior lieutenants have bounties on their heads for information leading to their capture, but none of those on the list have been confirmed killed or captured.
While efforts to kill or capture the Taliban’s senior leaders falter, the government recently released Sufi Mohammed, the pro-Taliban cleric behind the Malakand Accord, who is also Fazlullah’s father-in-law. A senior minister in the Northwest Frontier Province said Sufi should be ignored.
“Let Sufi Mohammad be history,” said the provincial Minister for Information, Mian Iftikhar Hussain. “His popularity graph has declined and people of Malakand will not trust him anymore.”