The emergence of the wealthiest and deadliest militant organisation, the Islamic State or Daesh, poses an existential threat to the security and territorial integrity of some Middle-Eastern countries. Ominously, according to some reports and recent incidents, the organisation has spilled over into Afghanistan and Pakistan; but the government has downplayed the threat and is still unmindful of its apocalyptic ramifications.
The spectre of Daesh is a threat to our security in both urban and rural centres. After its emergence in Iraq, Daesh published a roadmap for the next five years. The document refers to the region where Pakistan and Afghanistan are situated as ‘Khorasan’ (the old name for Afghan, Pakistani, Iranian and Central Asian territories).
The terror outfit has constituted a ten-member Strategic Planning Wing, which is entrusted with the responsibility for recruitment, planning, funding, and training of militants under the banner of Daesh/IS in Pakistan.
Since then, Daesh has been engaged in clandestinely establishing its organisational structures and gaining a foothold in the country, especially in the terrorism-ravaged tribal areas. It has prodigiously succeeded in recruiting domestic militants and acquiring the support of some like-minded terrorist and militant outfits such as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ).
We are already plagued by terrorist organisations such as the TTP, IMU, ETIM etc. The army has successfully dismantled the TTP’s organisational structure, central command and control centres, communication networks, and above all their operational bases through the ongoing Operation Zarb-e-Azb.
However, the military operations and the resultant weakening of the TTP have proved to be a blessing in disguise for Daesh to come forward with its wealth, sophisticated weaponry and strategies to prop up the hibernating TTP. Daesh’s funds would put new life into the TTP and help it with reorganisation and fresh recruitment, which could result in a new wave of violence engulfing us. The TTP and other affiliated militant organisations could then carry out attacks on the country more in a more lethal manner.
When the TTP was in a shambles due to its internal rifts and Operation Zarb-e-Azb, some of its top commanders pledged allegiance to Daesh chief Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. These commanders were former TTP spokesperson Shahidullah Shahid, Hafiz Saeed Khan who operated from the Orakzai Agency; Hafiz Daulat Khan who was TTP commander in the Kurram Agency; Maulana Gul Zaman who was controlling the affairs in the Khyber Agency; Mufti Hassan who was the TTP commander for Peshawar and Khalid Mansoor who was responsible for Hangu.
In addition to this, TTP commander from Bajaur Maulana Abu Bakar, his deputy Qari Zahid, and affiliates, commanders, fighters, religious advisors etc have accepted Al-Baghdadi as their caliph. These commanders will be quite helpful for Daesh because they know the ground realties, have a close rapport with the locals, have connections with the Afghan Taliban and are aware of the Pakistan Army’s moves.
In October this year, some Uzbek fighters from an Al-Qaeda-linked militant organisation have thrown their support behind Daesh. A top leader for the IMU, an ally of the Taliban mainly based in Pakistan’s tribal belt since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, announced its backing for Daesh. The support of Taliban and Central Asian terror groups based in our war-torn tribal areas has further exacerbated the nature of terrorism and militancy.
Terrorist and militant outfits prefer big cities for ransom, extortion and recruitment purposes. In this context, Daesh has been trying to establish its itself in Karachi, Quetta and Peshawar. The organisation is believed to have a presence in Karachi. Two recent terrorist attacks in the city pointed towards the IS connection in Pakistan. The security forces found Daesh/IS leaflets after the failed assassination attempt on Dr Debra Lobo, the American vice-principal of the Jinnah Medical and Dental College in Karachi. Daesh has also been belived to have been involved in the targeted killing of 44 people of the Ismaili community in the city.
Our tribal areas have been breeding grounds for a plethora of terrorist and militant organisations since 2000. After each military operation, the civil administration has repeatedly failed to reconstruct and develop these areas. That has provided Daesh the opportunity to attract and recruit trained local militants. According to a report prepared by the Balochistan government, IS militants have recruited between 10,000 and 12,000 fighters from Hangu, Kurram Agency and some other areas in Fata.
The PTI always boasts of good governance and elimination of terrorism and militancy, but it should know that its unworkable governance style and yet-to-be depoliticised police of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are responsible for the growth of Daesh in the terrorism-ravaged province. A host of outlawed terror groups associated with the terrorist group are freely distributing literature in some parts of the province and in the tribal areas, particularly in Afghan refugee camps.
Alarmingly, if the PTI-led provincial government does not employ law-enforcement agencies to stamp out such supporters, the province could once again be insidiously beset with militancy and terror – this time by the rampaging Daesh.
Daesh is bent upon executing its map of pan-Islamism as is evident from its territorial gains in Iraq and Syria. Its pan-Islamist and anti-Shia designs have inspired the perpetrator of sectarian violence in Pakistan, the Laskhar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). Daesh has offered some elements of the LeJ and Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamat (ASWJ) to join hands in Pakistan; this seems to be aimed at implementing the strategy of Khorasan. The meetings regarding this were in progress when LeJ leader Malik Ishaq was killed.
Daesh is a flexible militant organisation that has drastically changed its tactics of bringing Pakistani minor counterparts into its fold. Presumably, in collaboration and coordination with the LeJ in terms of operational bases and fighters, Daesh could chalk out a strategy to carry out a string of massacres on members of the Shia community. It could also target Ahmadis and Christians.
Punjab could also be a main target of the IS because of the entrenched roots of some dormant militancy and sectarianism embedded in the Jhang and Attock areas. Here the provincial and central governments are still indifferent, despite authentic reports about IS-linked militants roaming in the Attock and Taxila regions. A divisional police chief who has served in the Rawalpindi region admitted that IS-linked elements had been operating in the Attock area. Daesh/IS flags and wall chalking have also been discovered close to the sensitive Pakistan Ordnance Factories.
It is a pity that the political leadership has thus far done nothing significant to contain and dismantle the threat of Daesh in some parts of the country. Such attitude of our civilian leaders is itself a major threat to the security and safety of our country.
We cannot bear more bloodshed and violence. The government and the military leadership should hammer out a comprehensive strategy to stop Daesh from gaining more ground in the country. In this context, the civilian leadership should depoliticise, empower and equip the police force adequately against all militant and terror outfits. Measures must also be adopted to empower the whole nation in all spheres of life.
The writer is an independentresearcher, blogger, columnistbased in Karachi.
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