In Pakistan, we took years to admit that Al Qaeda’s presence on Pakistan’s soil was as much a threat to Pakistan as it was to the U.S. Many state organs and lot of people were misled by false notions propped up by apologists that Al Qaeda and its affiliates based in FATA were harmless Muslim jihadists holed up in far flung area of Pakistan for their own protection from the ruthless aggressor. The then government of Pakistan failed to dispel this preposterous propaganda and could not adopt a clear cut stance against the international terrorist organisation. Consequently Al Qaeda gave birth to local off spring, TTP which started wreaking havoc in Pakistan. Similarly, confusion about the real identity of TTP also reigned supreme for quite sometime. All its activities were mostly attributed to foreign hands bent upon destabilising Pakistan. Thanks to temerity of Maulvi Fazalullah’s TTP gang in Swat whose ruthlessness was exposed when a video of public flogging of a local girl went viral. A country wide uproar against this treatment compelled or facilitated the state to take on these elements. A quite delayed Military operation Rahe Nijat was launched that flushed these militants out of Swat. Ironically despite many military operations TTP Central, based in FATA, remained intact till the latest operation Zarb e Azb was launched which has successfully destroyed its command and control structures. But till then it had caused enormous mayhem and destruction in Pakistan. And it has not been annihilated to the hilt so far.
While we are grappling with this monster another formidable genie is gradually coming out of bottle. Footprints of dreaded Islamic state (IS) or Daish are becoming visible in Pakistan. Conversely we are again in a state of denial while it is spreading its tentacles in various parts of Pakistan. Last year there were a number of instances of wall chalking and distribution of literature in favour of IS in various cities like Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar etc. Some argue that it might be handiwork of the surreptitious sympathisers of receding TTP and its affiliates to create scare in the name of IS. But this convenient supposition lacks required credence to make the intelligence agencies and other concerned acquiesce. Rather some more credible information of growing support of IS in FATA area is alarming. According to a report of the Home Department Balochistan IS claimed to have recruited 10/12000 volunteers from the Hangu and Kurram Agency tribal areas. Hafiz Saeed TTP chief Orakzai Agency reportedly became head of IS in Pakistan in October 2014. The former TTP spokesperson Shahidullah Shahid etc had also announced allegiance to IS.
IS had initially emerged as sectarian force from Mosul that seemed to be restricted to Iraq and Syria as was evident from its initial name Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). But soon it decided to spread its area of influence and changed its name to Islamic State (IS) only. The responsibility of a recent attack by two assailants on the exhibition arranged by an anti Muslim group in Garland, USA, was claimed by IS. The two assailants had opened fire but were killed by Texas police. It has clearly acquired global aspirations and designs. The U.S. State department stated recently that it would take several years until the group was defeated. “Long term, we are going to degrade and defeat this organization,” said Brett McGurk, the State Department’s deputy special presidential envoy to the coalition to counter the IS. “But we have been clear from day one-it is going to take years. ”
The Afghan President Ashraf Ghani also expressed apprehension that brutal IS was making inroads into Afghanistan which is already plagued with worst insurgency. The governor of Kunduz also claimed that IS and Taliban had joined forces in Afghanistan.
There are reports of involvement of TTP, LeJ or IS in tragic massacre of Ismailis in Karachi on 13th May 2013. In fact TTP, LeJ, Jundullah and IS are all hand in glove and operate for one another. IS is however becoming an umbrella organisation like al Qaeda.
Given this situation, Pakistan should be immensely worried and closely monitor the developments in this regard. It ought to be ready to take preemptive actions without delay. If these developments are left unattended, it might result in a repetition of Al Qaeda saga in Fata. IS would like to use the trained militants of TTP and other groups from FATA to launch its terrorist activities not only in the US and other countries but within Pakistan as well. It would be a new but more brutal face and form of TTP and Al Qaeda.
There are all the chances that anti-Pakistan forces can use it to sabotage multi billion dollars Chinese projects in Pakistan, especially the China Pakistan Economic Corridor project, which has created quite a stir among the countries weary of China’s increasing foothold in Pakistan and beyond.