A long-lost video filmed by fighters of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, once thought lost to us who’ve been following the arms trade in the Pak-Afghan region over the last decade and longer, has recently resurfaced after a few years of it being pushed off the world-wide-web and into the deep reaches of the online archives. It was once again shared with us by our colleague Mick who runs an OSINT feed, much to our jubilation.
A group of fighters from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), at least two in number that are visible on camera, filmed and documented what we would now label as a travel-vlog in what seems to be the once bustling and infamous tribal town of Miran-Shah (Urdu/Pashto: ميران شاه) in North Waziristan. The town lies in between both Bannu city in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan and Khost city in Khost province, Afghanistan. At that time, it was then a part of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), surrounded by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province of Pakistan which it has now been merged with. From the scenes we can see, this seems to be from the mid-late 2000s although we have a date noted as circa 2010 for it. Now, this is obviously a propaganda video and was filmed really quite well, featuring excellent editing with graphics, time lapses and camera angles giving you the feel of actually being there although the quality it’s in now looks quite lacking – it can be described as one of the real deal, old-school travel vlogs before they really became a thing this recent decade.
At the start of the video, one of the fighters is introduces the viewer to the bazar as the presenter and is the focal point of the entire video, inviting us to follow him around. He appears to be speaking the Tajik dialect of Farsi which is also spoken in parts of modern day Uzbekistan from which they probably hail. You would be hard-pressed to imagine this as Pakistan rather it seeming much like Afghanistan under Taliban control – although the Pakistani currency seen being used reminds us otherwise. At the time they visited, the area was still under the control of Tehreek-E-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) thus they were freely able to move across the Pak-Afghan border at will.
The fighters toured the town’s main bazar, trying out local foods and street snacks, visiting book shops, and of course dropping in on the arms dealerships along with ones selling paraphernalia such as holsters and magazine rigs. They also visit a couple of workshops which were producing ammunition and which repaired small-arms. We are treated to a nice view of a refurbished old Soviet-era recoilless anti-tank weapon of some sort and multiple light-machine guns – types of armaments which aren’t displayed for all to see anymore like those old days – along with an array of both locally produced and genuine factory arms. During their brief tour, both men that appeared on camera appeared to carry 7.62×39mm AK/AKM-pattern self-loading rifles both with side-folding and under-folding buttstocks along with ‘waistcoat’ style magazine rigs, one of whom had his rig concealed underneath his British DPM pattern smock as can be seen later on. This isn’t something you’d see these days, people carrying their firearms outdoors openly is something that stopped for the most part once the army moved into FATA to clear out the TTP.
We can see them looking at an array of arms including a variety of pump action and self-loading shotguns, 7.62×354mmR PK/M pattern LMGs, 5.45×39mm AKS-74U-pattern carbines and more AK-pattern self-loading rifles with a glimpse at a more rare 5.45×39mm AK-74 ‘Kalakov‘ rifle, multiple pistols including the 9×19mm Beretta 92FS, Tokarev TT30/33 and Makarov pattern pistols plus a very clean Zastava CZ999, a few locally designed and made ‘MP5’ submachine guns, an SKS self-loading rifle, what appears to be a Heavy Machine Gun of some kind that is obscured in the background – maybe a DShK or KPV, more and more AK-pattern rifles, and a more uncommon Romanian PSL Designated Marksman Rifle.
It is a somewhat nostalgic look back at how things used to be in ex-FATA for some, a time before things changed drastically. Although many people are glad that things have changed – especially with the removal of the TTP, it was once a place of the world where old traditions lived on for a long time and you were much more free – even after many of these freedoms such as carrying your arms openly became a more unacceptable thing worldwide.