Pakistani Taliban threaten mobile phone sellers in Peshawar
On Feb. 21, an explosion ripped through a mobile phone shop at the Khushal bazaar in Peshawar, Pakistan, killing two people and injuring 17 others. "It is not clear what the motive behind the bombing was," a Pakistani police source told the Daily Times shortly after the attack. A similar attack gouged a mobile phone and DVD shop in Orkazai Agency on Feb. 8; that attack killed 16 people and wounded 17. After that attack, Fazal Qadir, a local administration official, stated that the pro-government Feroz Khel tribe, which owned shops in the bazaar, was the intended target of the bombing.
Despite the confusion exhibited by Pakistani officials over the latest rash of bombings targeting mobile phone and DVD shops, Pakistani militants have for years routinely attacked various businesses they deem as "shameless" and "un-Islamic." [See, for example, LWJ report, Taliban moving on Mardan, from April 2009.]
In late February, Tehrik-e-Taliban-e Pakistan (TTP) commander Qari Mullah Ahmed issued a threatening statement in Pashto that warned mobile phone shop owners in Peshawar's Bilour Plaza to immediately stop their "un-Islamic" activities.
So why is the TTP threatening to attack mobile phone sellers? The New Straits Times reports:
Some 60 shopkeepers received letters in the post ordering them to burn the offending stock, including memory cards and speakers for MP3 players, and stick to selling only mobile phones and essential accessories.
In one of the letters, seen by AFP, militants wrote: "Do not compel us to send a bomber... stop this shameless business in one week and burn the shameful stuff. Just sell mobile phones, batteries and chargers.
"Your markets have become centers of shamelessness... Our mission is to stop this shameless business and if you do not stop it yourself then we will make an example of you and your market."
"We have immediately closed down the shops doing ring tones and video clips business, after about 60 shopkeepers received threatening letters from Taliban by mail," local market association secretary general Shakil Ahmed told AFP.
As for the curious level of ignorance displayed by Pakistani authorities regarding possible motives for the destruction of mobile phone shops, it appears that the Pakistani government, or at least components of it, share the Taliban's view that mobile phone sellers are facilitators of indecency and "vulgarity."
From the International Herald Tribune:
In November, the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority ordered mobile phone service providers to discontinue cheap, late-night calling rates, arguing that these special packages promoted "vulgarity" and went against "social norms" by enabling teenagers to spend hours on the phone with their boyfriends and girlfriends.