Sunday, February 14, 2016

Daily Times Editorial Feb 15, 2016

Nisar in denial Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar has once again denied the presence of Islamic State (IS) in Pakistan. He says some terror outfits in Pakistan are using the name of IS to pursue their agendas. IS, the minister asserts, is a Middle Eastern organisation without the same level of presence here. It seems the minister is once again indulging in his favourite pastime: tilting at windmills. No one of sound mind has suggested IS is present in Pakistan in the same shape and form as in the Middle East. General opinion runs precisely along the lines that local terrorist groups have either pledged (at least four) or are in the process of pledging allegiance to IS. The minister flies in the face of the facts revealed by two sources. First and foremost, Intelligence Bureau (IB) Director General (DG) Aftab Sultan has confirmed to a parliamentary panel that IS poses a serious growing threat in Pakistan. Following this, the other day DG ISPR Lt-General Asim Bajwa revealed that a nexus amongst IS, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) has been broken up in Karachi and Hyderabad. After these facts were revealed, and given that Chaudhry Nisar admits local terrorist groups are ‘using’ IS’s name or pledging allegiance to it, where does the minister conclude that there is no presence of IS here? We have repeatedly pointed out in this space that it is not necessary for IS to physically travel here from its bases in Syria and Iraq. On the contrary, some Pakistanis, including women and children, have been reported to have travelled from here to Syria to fight on IS’s side. The only thing that needs to travel the other way is IS’s message and appeal, not to mention the temptation for local groups to dip into IS’s considerable coffers. While admitting this does not take a genius, it is inexplicable why, every time he opens his mouth, Chaudhry Nisar seems to see his ‘enemies’ everywhere. This includes commentators warning against the growth of an IS presence in Pakistan through local terror groups, as well as the political opposition. So incensed is Chaudhry Nisar at being contradicted on an IS presence here or the manifest gaps and failures in the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) that he has lashed out rudely at the opposition, particularly the PPP, whom he accuses of having slept through its tenure as far as terrorism is concerned. In language unbecoming of a holder of high office and a parliamentarian, the minister says such people criticise him when he “steps on their tail”. Can Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif not rein in his Don Quixote, or at the very least teach him some manners? Now from the ridiculous to the sublime (serious examination of the IS phenomenon). Since January 2015, reports have said at least four local terrorist groups have pledged allegiance to IS. The DG ISPR revealed the nexus amongst IS, TTP and LeJ. This trend is not confined to Pakistan. Some 43 terrorist groups in many countries across the Middle East and Africa have similarly pledged allegiance to IS. IS has laid claim to our region by dubbing it “Khurasan” in a reference to its ancient description, and clearly has aims to conquer it in the name of its so-called caliphate. Two additional facts should be kept in view. While we are trying to stop the TTP carrying out cross-border attacks from Afghan soil, IS has infiltrated eastern Afghanistan, is poised close to our border, and could easily aid and abet TTP in its terror operations inside Pakistan. Second, Chaudhry Nisar sees the madrassas as a bulwark against terrorism. Received wisdom so far held that it is these madrassas, or at least many of them, that are the terrorist-producing factories. Now they have, in the interior minister’s view, become their dialectical opposite, a ‘bulwark’. The government’s efforts to monitor and regulate the madrassas is at best described as an incomplete, difficult if not impossible task given the long leeway they have enjoyed over the decades, but to describe these holdouts for being allowed to preach the jihadi message to young minds as a ‘bulwark’ against terrorism is to beggar the imagination. Chaudhry Nisar’s credentials as the security czar are suspect, given that in the past he has exposed his soft corner for extremists. Peddling furiously and wildly in the water to perhaps overcome this perception, the interior minister seems to have jumped into the deep end.

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