ISLAMABAD: In a rare admission from a government official, Director General Intelligence Bureau Aftab Sultan on Wednesday said militant group Islamic State's presence is growing in Pakistan.
Addressing the senate standing committee on interior and narcotics control, chaired by former interior minister Rehman Malik, Sultan said banned outfits, namely Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Sipah-e-Sahaba are reorganising themselves, with presence of Dai'sh (Islamic State) more prominent than before.
Islamic State smuggling timber into Pakistan, say Afghan officials
IB chief said that all local militant groups including Lashker-e-Jhangvi and Sipaha-e-Sihaba have a soft corner for Daesh.
"TTP coordinates with Daesh despite being rivals in Afghanistan," he said, adding that the group is using social media and cyberspace extensively to recruit and communicate messages of suspected militants.
"The intelligence bureau is identifying signs of the militants' presence in the country and carrying out arrests where necessary," Sultan said.
"There are reports of fighters being recruited by sectarian and other outfits, and being sent to Syria. The number of people leaving from Pakistan to Syria to join IS are in hundreds," he said.
No presence of Daesh in Pakistan
"These militants are now targeting media houses and educational institutes in Pakistan," he said.
The IB boss told the committee that TTP Fazlullah group was still the strongest one and all militant groups were working in tandem. “Jandullah is a smaller group,” he said.
Sultan claimed that terror incidents have considerably decreased after the launch of Operation Zarb-e-Azb. “Terrorists are on the run. Civilian security and intelligence set-ups are augmenting and implementing operation Zarb-e-Azb in cities.”
Zero tolerance for Islamic State in Pakistan: DG ISPR
Pakistan has continuously denied the presence of the militant group on its soil. In January this year, the Foreign Office reiterated that the IS has no presence in Pakistan amid reports that a group of 20 people left the country for Syria recently to join the ultra-radical Middle Eastern group. “We have seen media reports that certain elements trying to associate themselves with Da’ish have been arrested and that investigations are going on,” FO spokesman Qazi Khalilullah said, using another name IS is widely known by. He was speaking at his weekly news briefing in Islamabad.
He made it clear, however, that IS has no ‘footprint’ in Pakistan. “We will not tolerate even the shadow of Da’ish in Pakistan. We have alerted our security agencies to the threat posed by Da’ish. They will take appropriate action, if required,” Qazi said.
No Da'ish footprint in Pakistan, says FO
Further, last year, DG ISPR Maj-Gen Asim Bajwa said Pakistan has “zero tolerance” for the emerging militant group. “Not even a shadow of Daish will be allowed in Pakistan,” the DG ISPR said, adding the Pakistani society had rejected the IS, and there was no acceptance of the terror group in the country.
While officials continue to deny organised presence of the Islamic State, also known by its Arabic acronym Da’ish, in Pakistan, at least 42 suspects with alleged links to the Middle Eastern terrorist group were detained in Punjab in January. The suspects were involved in setting up sleeper cells for Da’ish, which has set up a self-styled caliphate on large swathes of land in Syria and Iraq. The law enforcers also seized militancy literature and weapons in the raids.
Active recruitment: Law minister confirms Da’ish footprint in Punjab
Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah added not more than 100 Pakistanis had left the country to join the Middle Eastern ultra-extremist group. “Our security agencies are making hectic efforts to round up people involved in recruiting for ISIS in Pakistan,” he said, taking a different name for the terrorist outfit. “We are making all-out efforts to strengthen the security agencies to effectively curb any influence of ISIS in the country.”