Is Daesh in Pakistan or Not? Confusion All Around

A Sunni man who fled Daesh strongholds of Hawija and Shirqat arrives at a refugee center south of Mosul, Iraq, February 14. With groups in Pakistan expressing an affiliation to Daesh, many wonder if the militant group poses a threat to the country. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari

By Omar R Quraishi

One would have thought that the answer to this important question would be clear cut— either it is there in Pakistan or it isn’t. However, if one was to go by recent statements of senior government officials, including the interior minister, then the answer becomes somewhat muddled.

Of late, Daesh has been cause for much confusion in the country wracked by militant attacks and violence.

Consider. In January, police in Punjab province—which has around 60 percent of the country’s population—say that they busted a network of local people sympathetic to Daesh. They also said that several women had left for Syria along with their children to be part of Daesh, and that this was investigated following complaints filed by one of the woman’s husband. The law minister of the province then confirms this, saying that investigations were underway to find out more such people.

Then, last week, the head of Pakistan’s Intelligence Bureau told a select parliamentary committee that Daesh posed a grave threat to Pakistan. He also said that in recent days his agency had busted a network of Daesh sympathizers in the country.

Fast forward to February 16, when the country’s Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told a press conference that certain banned groups in the country were using Daesh’s name but that no Daesh network existed in the country. This view was echoed by the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs whose spokesman has routinely denied the existence of a Daesh network in the country.

 

So what is the truth?

Pakistan—a country that has been so badly affected by militancy and terrorism—cannot afford to take lightly any such threat, least of all from an organization as dangerous and violent as Daesh.

There are certain facts regarding Daesh which are indisputable. First, pro-Daesh graffiti has appeared in several cities across Pakistan and this has happened over a period of several months. Second, people from Pakistan have left for Syria to join Daesh, and evidence of this has come from their family members left behind. The militant group itself, at least in one case, has publicly issued a statement that one of its suicide bombers was from Pakistan. Furthermore, some months ago, several Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) commanders announced their allegiance to IS supreme Abubakr Al Baghdadi in a sign that they were splitting from the TTP leadership.

Given these realities, it is imperative for Pakistan to at least publicly acknowledge what most of its population already know. When the country’s interior minister says that there is no Daesh network as such but that certain banned militant groups are using its name, does he not consider the very distinct possibility that these groups would be clearly sharing in the Daesh ideology and aims, and hence need to be seen as its local offshoots?

The writer is Editor Online & Web, ARY News. He tweets @omar_quraishi

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