Sartaj Aziz, Advisor to the Prime Minister of Pakistan on National Security and Foreign Affairs has, of late, shown a penchant for brushing aside all talk of the presence in Pakistan of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) also called the Islamic State (IS) and “Daish.” The situation on ground, however, belies scope for such optimism which is yet another reflection of the state of denial that successive governments in Pakistan have gained notoriety for.
How would Sartaj Aziz explain away the presence of the black flag of the IS on the electricity poles of Lahore? How would he explain away detention of an alleged IS member, Yousaf Al Salafi and his accomplices, once again in Lahore? These persons are said to have come from Turkey a few months back and are busy carrying out recruitment for the Syrian war. A top US Commander in Afghanistan General John Campbell, while confirming the recruitment activities of the IS in Afghanistan and Pakistan said to the Army Times, “There have been some night letter drops, there have been reports of people trying to recruit both in Afghanistan and Pakistan, quite frankly.’
How would Sartaj Aziz explain away the alleged nexus between the Daish and the Lashkar-e-Janghvi (LeJ) with a common agenda to persecute the minorities of the nation, particularly the Shia Muslim community?
Even more worrisome is news from Bangladesh where four suspected members of the IS have been arrested. The senior among them, Mohammad Sakhawatul Kabir, on interrogation by the Dhaka police has confirmed that he and his accomplices have received training in – Pakistan.
Whatever Sartaj Aziz may want the world to believe, the fact is that militancy infested Pakistan has taken to the IS like fish takes to water. The manner in which the IS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi openly addresses his cadre and the manner in which the IS has occupied territory and declared a Caliphate is a source of inspiration for the Pakistani militants whose own leaders and role models like Mullah Fazlulla and Mullah Omar remain perpetually in hiding. The Pakistani militants now identify more with the IS tactics of holding ground and controlling territory rather than the terror tactics advocated by the al Queda.
The IS, on its part, is quite determined to register its presence in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. One of the demands that it made to free American journalist James Foley was the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist serving an 86 years prison term in the US. Siddiqui was an active member of the al Queda and has been convicted by a US District Court on seven counts including attempted murder and more significantly, assaulting US officers. This is the IS way of showing allegiance with the militants of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The IS has also aligned with a faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and gone to the extent of declaring its commander, Hafez Saeed Khan as the “Governor of Khorasan.” Khorasan is an area encompassing Afghanistan, Pakistan, parts of the Central Asian Republics, China, and of course, India.
The IS is determined to extend its hold on the Indian sub-continent and from there launch its international Jihad. The IS objective in Pakistan is to highlight the shortcomings of the existing militant movement and thus establish its credentials as a viable option; once it succeeds in garnering adequate militant strength, it will formally wage war against the Pakistan army and security forces under its black banner; simultaneously it will inflict its traditional atrocities against the ethnic minorities primarily the Shia Muslim community of Pakistan and also the remnants of Hindus, Christians etc. in the country. Once the IS gains a foothold it will simply overwhelm the Al Queda and the TTP to emerge as the sole arbiter of Jihad in the sub-continent.
The IS is bound to look at its ingress into India through the Kashmir Valley, onwards to the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir and then on to the rest of the country. The call will be “liberation of the Sunni brothers of Kashmir from the oppressive yoke of the infidel.” The preparatory stage will be based on spread of propaganda and dissidence in Jammu and Kashmir through social media and other forms of communication.
While being prepared for any onslaught on Indian territories that the IS may launch, India also has to consider the outcome of the genocide that it is likely to unleash on the minorities of Pakistan. A majority of the Shia Muslim community that will be targeted are from Gilgit-Baltistan. These are citizens of India under foreign subjugation and their protection is a moral obligation for the country. Similarly, the Hindus and Christians of Pakistan have a historic affinity with India; the moral obligation to protect them goes beyond the humanitarian aspect.
Should the IS succeed in its nefarious agenda the attendant atrocities will create a huge refugee problem that will definitely spill over into India and strain the country’s resources terribly. One needs to take lessons from the holocaust in East Pakistan now Bangladesh to get an idea of the magnitude that the problem can attain.
India needs to remain alive to the impending crisis and have all options in place to deal with it as it gains momentum. There is no point in reacting once the tidal wave has burst. As a start-up there is a need to create awareness about the plight of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan. Diplomatic and moral support should be extended to them in their struggle against the state of Pakistan and more so the militant organisations like the LeJ that it has spawned. On the domestic front, a keen eye has to be kept on the efforts being made by divisive forces to ignite a religious flame in Jammu and Kashmir, especially the Kashmir valley.
The idea of IS gaining a foot hold in the Indian Sub-continent may look a little far-fetched today but if not nipped in the bud it will definitely ignite into a flame and sweep across the region causing death and destruction in its wake.