The New Threat: IS in Pakistan

-N.Elahi-

The bloodbath in Paris and carnage in San Bernardino has made it clear that self-styled Islamic State (IS) , also known as ISIL,ISIS and Daesh, has the designs and capability to spread monstrous wings of its chapters beyond its stronghold in the Middle East. It has already made inroads in Afghanistan and Pakistan, relying on its natural militant allies operating in these areas. 
Ironically, in Pakistan, the state security apparatus has been constantly denying the presence of IS on its soil. It is not a secret that Hafiz Saeed, who was previously head of TTP in Orakzai Agency, FATA, was designated Chief of IS in Khurasan, (Pakistan and Afghanistan) by IS chief Abu Baker Baghdadi, more than a year ago. In the same period IS propaganda literature was distributed in Lahore and other cities of Pakistan. 
Pakistan has no dearth of militants and extremists belonging to TTP, Al Qaeda and host of other religious and sectarian groups bent upon wielding the sabre of violence. They keep changing their form to deflect state pressures and readily join new groups to continue their violent activities. The ocean of religious extremism and sectarian intolerance, spread across the country, provides conducive environment to militants to operate with impunity. 

All militants Islamist groups are intertwined. They exchange manpower and modus operandi. Al Qaeda chief Dr. Amman al Zawahiri is desirous to join hands with IS. Al Qaeda is mentor of TTP and has old ties with Afghan Taliban. Many activists of Hizbul Tehrir and Jamat ud Dawa have joined ranks of IS. 
So the security situation is becoming complex and complicated in Pakistan, not only on the western border adjacent to Afghanistan but in urban centres like Lahore, Karachi, Quetta etc too. 
Presence of IS and likes is palpable in many cities of Pakistan. A senior officer of Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) of Punjab had stated that Paris-like terrorist attacks could not be ruled out in Punjab. Recently CTD Punjab claimed to have busted IS cell in Sialkot. Explosives were recovered from the suspects.
 Despite this realisation and warning the response to this threat, however, has mostly remained patchy, sluggish and weak. The litmus test is lackadaisical implementation of National Action Plan in all provinces. Punjab and Karachi, however, have demonstrated some zeal in this regard.Sectarian terrorists were killed in encounters in Punjab a few months ago. At least one madrasah was sealed in South Punjab as it was suspected to be affiliated with the controversial cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz of Lal Masjid who had pledged allegiance to IS. Ironically Abdul Aziz is moving freely, openly supporting the terrorists and promoting their cause. Much more is required to be done in this regard.

It is immensely important to disrupt the terrorists' support network to stifle growth and recruitment spree of IS and other terrorist groups. Unfortunately this aspect is being ignored since long. It is the state of denial that has caused apathy and inactivity in this regard.
Despite categorical claim of some official sources that IS/Daesh phenomena has been totally rejected in Pakistan, the foot prints of IS are evident. The prevailing environment, though being bridled by Operation Zarb e Azb and NAP, the birth and growth of IS is a predictable phenomenon. Its surreptitious but smart attempts to make inroads in the society through graffiti and wall chalking by its facilitators and supporters can be seen and felt . One would have observed "Allah O Akbar Tehreek" written on conspicuous places in many cities including Islamabad. Some sources are of the view that it is entry mode strategy of IS. 
More tangible proof of IS presence is the apprehension of the master mind of Safoora Bus shooting incident in Karachi, namely Kamran Gujjar, from Gujrat, Punjab. He is linked with IS. Intelligence sources have informed that according to information divulged by one of companions of Gujjar, IS has established its units till district level in Pakistan. According to an information Kamran Gujjar has introduced use of 9mm pistol to carry out target killings in Karachi and even in Punjab. Two army officials were gunned down with this weapon in Karachi in December and three police officials were killed in Rawalpindi in November. 
On Christmas Eve IS released a 12 minute horrible video showing slaughtering of a Pakistani soldier and two others shot in cold blood, somewhere in the mountains near Pak-Afghan border. IS Khurasan, headed by Hafiz Saeed, seems to be spearheading these activities. The video also shows a suicide bomber of IS driving and exploding a mini-truck in a building that appeared to be an Afghan Army outpost. 
It is high time to unleash sustained intelligence operations to gather credible information on the activists, sleeper agents, sympathisers and financiers of IS and move fast to disrupt its plans and dismantle its cells across Pakistan.

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