Is the IS in Pakistan?

Published: November 14, 2014
The writer is a retired army officer who served in Fata and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa

The writer is a retired army officer who served in Fata and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa

After rejoicing at the advent of the Arab Spring, when government after government was being toppled by the people’s power, the Western world turned its attention towards Libya. Muammar Gaddafi was a hard nut to crack; yet, by misusing a UNSC resolution, his air power was made ineffective. When Gaddafi kept resisting, Nato stepped in through the use of air power. The Libyan leader was killed by a mob in a brutal manner. Today, Libya is a mess. The same recipe was tried in Syria. The Syrian government resisted and did so brutally. However, Russia stood by Syria and vetoed a UNSC resolution for a no-fly zone. That gave Bashar al-Assad the edge of having an air force that could dominate the resistance movement against him. The Syrian Army did not split and fought all the resistance groups.

Nato used all means to arm the resistance movement. Training camps were established in Syria’s neighbouring countries. Turkey became a passage for jihadis from all over the world, including Central Asia, the UK, the US and Australia. Jihad against Assad was internationalised. Al Qaeda found Syria to be an ideal place for recruitment. It carried out activities in Syria, independent of the Syrian resistance. Thousands of Iraqis also joined the fight against Assad, including elements of the Iraqi al Qaeda. When fighting between al Qaeda and the Iraqi IS started, the latter proved too strong for the former. Al Qaeda chief Ayman Al Zawahiri sent an emissary to stop the fighting, but the IS refused to take orders from him. Yet, it was the announcement of the establishment of the IS by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the speed with which the group captured Iraqi towns when the world finally woke up to the threat posed by it. The Iraqi Army trained by the US melted down and handed over city after city without offering any resistance. The IS is the most potent threat that most countries in the world face right now.

Many in Pakistan are now worried about the IS threat in our own country. Wall chalkings related to the IS have appeared in different cities. However, should Pakistan be worried about the emergence of the IS and does this group have any chance of success here? I believe Pakistan should not be worried about the IS emerging here. Reports of the Pakistani Taliban leaders joining the IS made headlines, but a look at the country’s decade-long history of militancy and the way it was fought will reveal that Pakistan has already passed through the IS period. What the IS is doing in Iraq right now happened in Pakistan a decade ago. The Taliban captured areas, established their writ and ruled a vast area of Pakistan. The area, population-wise, was much larger than what the IS controls in Iraq right now. Four settled districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, seven tribal agencies and four frontier regions were under the complete control of the Taliban. Just like the IS, the Taliban wanted to establish a religious state in Pakistan and through this foothold, spread their movement to other parts of the world. That was in 2007.

The Pakistan Army started operations against these elements. One by one, the territories were retaken from the Taliban. Stiff resistance in the form of ambushes and pitched battles were fought. Today, an operation is being conducted to root out the last hideout of the Taliban in North Waziristan. The Taliban did not fight and preferred to avoid pitched battles with the Pakistan Army. Their command and control system has been destroyed. There is no safe place for them to regroup without fear and they do not have the freedom they once enjoyed in North Waziristan. They are now divided into various factions and are no more a formidable united, fighting force. They do have the ability to carry out subversive activities, however, they will never have the strength they once enjoyed.

This does not mean that the IS will not appear in Pakistan. There are groups, which are armed and ready to kill opponents on religious or sectarian grounds. However, even if we believe half of what the ISPR is claiming regarding Operation Zarb-e-Azb, this still amounts to the loss of a large number of fighters, with the resultant splinter groups being leaderless now. Their foot soldiers may now be posing as IDPs, but are unlikely to rejoin these groups if the writ of the state is established in Fata. What can happen though is that groups that have been rendered leaderless may form the basis of the IS in Pakistan. In material terms, this will amount to just a change of name as they are already involved in activities similar to those of the IS. With the IS leadership in Iraq already under pressure due to US air strikes, which have restricted their mobility and communication, it will be difficult for Pakistani terrorists to get guidance from it. The IS, so far, has not nominated anyone from Pakistan as its head. A headless organisation cannot be effective. If it does appoint a head for Pakistan, that person will be in direct confrontation with the Taliban of Mullah Omar and al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and this may result in further infighting between these groups, thus weakening them all.

However, while Operation Zarb-e-Azb has been successful so far, it is restricted to North Waziristan only. Though secondary operations are being carried out, these are only limited to Fata. Punjab is a base for sectarian militants and their agenda is closest to that of the IS. Yet, there is no action being taken against them. Tackling militancy in Fata in a piecemeal fashion was feasible, but now a country wide operation is required against all militant groups. The federal and provincial governments should act in a coordinated effort to clear Pakistan from this menace once and for all.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 14th, 2014.

Like Opinion & Editorial on Facebook, follow @ETOpEd on Twitter to receive all updates on all our daily pieces.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (16)

  • Baddi magane
    Nov 14, 2014 - 12:44AM

    When Osama Bin laden himself was in Pakistan, what is surprising about ISIS being in Pakistan.


  • Pradeep
    Nov 14, 2014 - 1:48AM

    Isn’t it funny how the author establishes anti U.S. rhetoric first before delving into the issue at hand? Is this what one has to do these days to create a successful op-ed in Pakistan these days? Once again this same author would have heaped scorn on the US if they had refused to bring down Gaddafi. Then there would have been conspiracies about secret oil deals and what not. The U.S. just can’t do anything right now can they?Recommend

  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Nov 14, 2014 - 3:12AM

    The writer knows very little what has already happened in Arab countries and he expects us to believe his predictions.


  • sana
    Nov 14, 2014 - 7:41AM

    IS is Western intelligence backed. Just take a look at Islamabad.


  • Toticalling
    Nov 14, 2014 - 1:18PM

    Luckily Pakistan army is strong to crush IS taking over any part of Pakistan. that is what was lacking in Iraq when IS spread. To say that we should get rid of this menace for once and all is wishful thinking.- We are not finished with taliban and they have been around for a few decades. All we should aim for is that are made to run and not take an upper hand in society.


  • Striver
    Nov 14, 2014 - 3:31PM

    Great article. In a few paragraphs it has clarified many issues. I have read several articles in foreign journals on ISIS, IS etc but I must say this is one of the best so far for its succinct and sharp narrative.

    The solution is staring us in the face. But the government cannot recognize it. Its too busy filling its pockets and that those of its allies. The need to go.


  • Hedgefunder
    Nov 14, 2014 - 4:52PM

    Well if ISIS are not already in the town, they are certainly knocking on your doors !
    Allow them in, and see what happens to the Land of Pure !
    There is generation of delusional people in this country, to welcome them, under false pretense, which will eventually lead to complete destruction of the society and the nation.


  • Hedgefunder
    Nov 14, 2014 - 4:59PM

    When an Army has to deal with the Nation’s internal crises, it shows as to the real state of affairs in the Country !
    Just what took so long to decide that action was needed in NW ? After all those cockroaches have been therefor over a decade !


  • Syed Shah
    Nov 14, 2014 - 5:13PM

    Very Logical and to the Point.


  • Satish
    Nov 14, 2014 - 6:00PM


    I think US (and NATO and UK) really cannot get anything right. They have not been able to since the Sept 11th attacks.

    They invaded Iraq which was posing no feasible threat and in fact was keeping AQ at bay there. Since their invasion the whole region has become destabilised leading to even more violence and no sight of US/UK version of “democracy”. Then there was the killing of Gadaffi – another country they have needlessly invaded and turned into a cauldron.

    The fact remains that the US and “allies” (surprising how these guys always call themselves allies) have no idea how to get out of the mess they create nor do they have any idea of how to improve things.

    Iraq, Libya, and now Syria might have been run by ruthless dictators but they were doing far more in keeping terrorism at bay than the US and UK have managed.


  • Toticalling
    Nov 14, 2014 - 7:00PM

    @Hedgefunder: You are right, but at least both taliban and IS will not control a territory and issue currency of their own like IS is doing. I am not recommending army interfering in civilian affairs.


  • Sexton Blake
    Nov 14, 2014 - 7:12PM

    A very good article. Let’s face it, most of the problems occurring from Africa, and the Eastern Mediterranean to the Sub-Continent were started by Western interests and others such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, for reasons best known to themselves. However, one does not need to be too bright to work it. For example, about 12 years ago Libya, Syria and Iraq were reasonably secure and they all possessed a standard of living almost every Pakistani would be envious of prior to them being bombed into the stone-age by the West. The only people making a profit out of all this are the money junkies and Corporate-interests, whose main wish is to create world hegemony, and all the pitiable Western governments are slavishly falling in line. Most of the militant groups we have seen over the last 20 years or so were setup and supplied with extremely expensive equipment by the West and Saudi Arabia. I do not know where it will all end, but it does seem that Islam appears to be suffering the most. At the very least the disruption being caused by Western interests is appalling, and of course the bottom 80% of the West is suffering also due to the ever increasing taxes required to pay for the never ending wars. As a result of Western interference Pakistan’s future does not look very bright regardless of an IS intervention or not.


  • Rex Minor
    Nov 14, 2014 - 7:23PM

    The author after having served some of his time in the tribal territory and expecting a retaliation for the army carnage which displaced more than million families on both sides of the border, and Pakistan army PR efforts to solicit support from the Afghan Government, has the gut feeling that ISIS is in the offing and Pakistani authorities must undertake steps to thwart it.
    ISIS is not one, two, a group an army but an Ocean with psunami which has rolled out in the land of karbala, they march and run like the Romans in their times did and scatter their firepower like the army of third reich did, one hears the bootsteps and the sound, Allah, Allah, Allah…… and during the daylight one sees civilian people on the run with families of old, women and children out of sheer fear scattered across the ones beautiful terrain and what remains behind is nothing but death and destruction and animals all around. They have no LEADER in command, nor a guide, they are reported to be between 18 and 20, call themselves the Jihadists and have gathered from several parts of the world. Many of them from christian families who converted to Islam as early as one week ago. Their mission is to clean up the mess which the American and other foreign armies created in the past decades of occupation. They do not surrender against the force and this is very unique. Is this the mennace made up of evil forces as many claim or the good ones who can take no longer the might of evil forces whose routine in the past decades has been to colonise, occupy and indoctrinate?
    Let us hope that their activities stay confined to the middle east, for if this kind of menace rolls out from the North there will no longer be a Pakistan State as it is known today.. AlJazeera TV has recently shown the night scene showing how the little children are receiving their indoctrination with documentary films and video scenes of the destruction by foregn troops, preparing them for future foreign engagement.

    Rex Minor


  • hussain
    Nov 15, 2014 - 7:50AM

    although enemy at the gate,but the fact which always not considered to be mentioned,that in the presence of strong air forces at disposal of ur opponents would never allow u to established a state not occupy any territory,is may be threat to disturb life but not to occupy or establish a state


  • Nov 15, 2014 - 3:48PM

    Right now Pakistan is highly threatened by IS after abolished faction of Al-Mehsud TTP and their main target in ISB is Quaid-e-azam university might be or as a whole.It was the issue rooted out decades ago when the trained taliban of Al- qaeda sneaked into the tribal areas of northern waziristan and Iraqi IS was the part of Al-qaeda when the russia supported syria that Iraq is better place where jihadist should be trained. as in consequence some exchanged converse ideas were taken place between Al-qaida and Iraqi IS because it was against Bashr-al-asad of taliban, therefore they defied any demand of Al-qaeda when they sent their group to avert the fighting
    Moreever, TTP, Osama was in Pakistan; afterwards why could be not the IS presence in Pakistan, regarding some rumors IS is not in Pakistan beacuse it’s been instabled and dropped in fear by the Air strikes of US, again they might be the next faction of TTP…..


  • observer
    Nov 16, 2014 - 11:08AM

    Isn’t it known as ‘pak IS tan’?


More in Opinion