By Saeed Shah in Islamabad
Last Updated: 1:05PM BST 26 Apr 2009
Their deaths were squalid, riddled with bullets in a field near their home by Taliban gunmen as the execution was captured on a mobile telephone.
In footage which is being watched with horror by Pakistanis, the couple try to flee when they realise what is about to happen. But a gunman casually shoots the man and then the woman in the back with a burst of gunfire, leaving them bleeding in the dirt.
Moments later, when others in the execution party shout out that they are still alive, he returns to coldly finish them with a few more rounds.
Their "crime" was an alleged affair in their remote mountain village controlled by militants in an area that was only recently under the government's sway. It was the kind of barbarity that has become increasingly familiar across Pakistan as the Taliban tide has spread.
But this time, with black-turbaned gunmen almost at the gates of Islamabad, the rare footage has shown urban Pakistanis what could now await them.
Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, has warned that Islamic extremists could take over the nation.
In the past few days the footage has circulated among Pakistanis who usually show little interest in the rough ways of the distant frontier regions.
They have now started to wake up to the fear that al-Qaeda-linked rebels from the frontier could take over their nation.
The killings happened in Hangu district, in North West Frontier Province, about two hours drive from the regional capital Peshawar. The punishment was administered by a local group of the Pakistani Taliban, the Islamic militia which has swept across the NWFP towards the capital Islamabad.
Last week, the Taliban had reached within 60 miles of Islamabad, in Buner district. Their takeover sparked panic in the West, which was already appalled by a peace deal that the government had signed this month with Taliban in adjacent the Swat valley.
In an extraordinary move, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, called on the people of Pakistan to defy their government, saying they "need to speak out forcefully against a policy that is ceding more and more territory to the insurgents".
The Taliban had agreed a withdrawal, in the last couple of days, to their stronghold of Swat. That will scarcely make the government and elite in the capital Islamabad feel much safer, as Swat is only 100 miles from them.
"The Taliban are steady and confident, the government is weak and faltering," said Pervez Hoodbhoy, a professor at Islamabad's Quaid-e-Azam University and one of Pakistan's leading intellectuals.
"A Taliban victory will enslave our women, destroy Pakistan's rich historical and cultural heritage, make education and science impossible, and make the lives of its citizens impossibly difficult. Some are already contemplating an exodus."
Pakistan today stands on a knife-edge, threatened with anarchy. The desperate deal signed with the Taliban in Swat looks set to fall apart. The result will almost certainly be violence. An army convoy heading into Swat on Saturday morning was stopped by the Taliban and forced to turn back, in a naked display of their power.
They seem to have been only emboldened by the peace agreement. Many believe that a bloody military operation now looks inevitable,
For those in areas falling under Taliban control, their harsh rule is terrifying.
An SOS text message sent out on Friday by a terrified local resident, in an area of Swat called Bahrain, says that the Taliban have established total control. Asking not be named for fear of reprisal, he said that they have set up check posts at the entrance to Bahrain, from where they kidnap those they want, including young women.
"They've even warned the local schools to close the girl classes or face dire consequences. Yet the government says its writ is in Swat."
Another Swat resident said: "Every day I see armed Taliban move around freely. At the time of prayer, if they see anyone in his shop or walking about, they whip him with a stick."
The Pakistani Taliban, a copy of the Afghan extremist movement, have long controlled the tribal area along the Afghan border, which is a sanctuary for militants, including al-Qaeda. But it is their march into the heart of the country that has horrified ordinary Pakistanis, and the wider world. And the threat comes not just from the Taliban to the west. Islamic extremists, who are not part of the Taliban, are already entrenched in Islamabad and across the Punjab, the most populous province, seemingly ready to surface when their moment comes.
Islamabad's defences are being hurriedly fortified, with paramilitary troops stationed on the Margalla Hills, which overlook the city from the West. In the capital, there are thousands of followers of the radical Red Mosque, where there are now open calls for Islamic revolution at the weekly Friday prayers.
"The Taliban will not stop at Swat. They will come towards Islamabad," said Hasan Askari Rizvi, a military analyst based in Lahore. "If the army is to take action against them, it is going to be a really bloody battle. And then civil government will be knocked out."
"Extremist groups based in Islamabad will move from within and they (Taliban) will build pressure from outside."
The footage Pakistanis have been watching shows them what they could expect.
A local journalist was invited to witness the execution, who filmed it with his mobile phone for a Pakistani channel, Dawn News. The Sunday Telegraph is showing the footage in the West for the first time.
There were no names for the two victims.
"Using the media is part of their (the Taliban's) psychological warfare," said Imtiaz Gul, chairman of Centre for Research and Security Studies, an independent think tank in Islamabad. "This way, they inject fear into the minds of people who might oppose them, keeping the majority silent."
After the couple were shot, the family were told to take their bodies away for burial. The punishment was administered by a local group of the Pakistani Taliban linked to warlord Baitullah Mehsud.