The Monster Reaches our Doorstep
*Ozer Khalid is a Senior Consultant, Geo-Strategist and Freelance Writer. He can be reached on email@example.com or Twitter followed on @ozerkhalid
(This essay explores ISIS`s presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan, how its poisonous ideology will shape both existing and upcoming extremists in the region, and what a resilient response from the Pakistani government, authorities and civil society could entail. – Author)
Pakistan already has an over-crowded terror operating theater which is why ISIS Khorasan (ISIS-K denoting the ISIS South Asian affiliate) has not found it easy to make institutionalized inroads. Vestiges of Al Qaeda remain, Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP ) – especially the Fazlullah faction – are still the fiercest extremists. They recently pursued realigning with Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and Sipah-i-Sahaba who bear a soft spot for ISIS-Khorasan, per intelligence agencies. The killings of SP Chaudhry Aslam in Karachi and ANP leader Bashir Bilour in Peshawar are grim reminders of such radical alignments.
Though there is still no overwhelming explicit evidence of ISIS’s central leadership in Iraq and Syria actively, consistently and overtly directing terrorist activities in Pakistan, its poisonous ideology has spread like cancer amongst our midst, inspiring individuals or groups in South Asia (at times autonomous previously unaffiliated ones) to recruit, raise funds, logistically organize and execute attacks to demonstrate to ISIS their support. It is this potential for convergence among multiple terrorist groups that causes most consternation and cause for concern.
ISIS-K`s regional ruling ambitions, ubiquitous social media sway, radical extremist ideology, and vast recruitment pool of existing and potential militants in Pakistan, imply that ISIS-K cannot be ignored as a potentially pernicious threat to Pakistan`s social fabric and its subsequent fallout for the entire South and Central Asian region as a whole.
A mélange of “push” and “pull” factors contributed to these local militants’ decision to join ISIS —“push” aspects include a disillusionment with their idols in TTP or the Afghan Taliban plus TTP’s losing grip of territorial control in the Federally Administered Tribal Agencies (FATA), which obliged its top brass to worm their way into Afghanistan. “Pull” factors include a virulent Apocalyptic allure toward the ideology and successes of ISIS or its ability to bankroll extremists more lucratively than other radical groups.
ISIS-K enjoys much more influence and traction in Afghanistan as compared to Pakistan though recently they have gained an increasing foothold in Pakistan as well, with copious evidence of their nationwide penetration. ISIS is not finding it easy to fully operationalize itself in Pakistan due to commendable law enforcement clampdowns and military operations in a more stable Pakistan as compared to a strife and war-torn Afghanistan, yet ISIS-K ‘networks’ have emerged in the shadows.
Source: Iranian Diplomacy IRD (2016) IS Activity in Afghanistan and Pakistan
The government of Pakistan understandably does not want to stir up an alarmist hornet’s nest over ISIS-K, but as time unfolds ISIS in South Asia has evolved from a fledgling operation to a mature terrorist organization capable of carrying out complex and diverse attacks, conducting fifth generation asymmetrical warfare, reconnaissance and retaliation missions using escape and evasion techniques. Naive or negligent deniability can no longer be used to cloak the reality that ISIS-K in South Asia is a hazardously growing menace.
This essay explores ISIS`s presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan, how its poisonous ideology will shape both existing and upcoming extremists in the region, and what a resilient response from the Pakistani government, authorities and civil society could entail.
ISIS IN SOUTH ASIA – A SPECTATOR OR A SPOILER?
Beginnings, Background and Context
The Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Taliban Fazlullah faction, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Ahle-Sunnat-Wal-Jamaat are just some of the unsavoury terror organizations that were orchestrating deadly operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India much before the advent of ISIS.
Prior to 2014, ISIS-K South Asia was a mere spectator, but thereafter has become a spoiler of significant proportion. ISIS has been expansionist in South Asia since 2014. In initial maps released by ISIS Iraqi & Syrian head-quarters, the merciless death merchants of the Levant envisaged far-reaching geographical expansion whose caliphate was to span from Spain in the West to India and China in the east. South Asia prominently being featured in their initial map makes the region intensely susceptible to their sinister designs.
ISIS-K is run by a deviant distorted strain of Sunni fanatics. They exploit raw emotions yearning for the delusional grandeur of a bygone era of Salafist Takfiri literalist ideological indoctrination. This worldview coalesces with some South Asian theocratic clerics, thirsting for the déjà vu of theocratic empire-building.
Such wayward nostalgic dreamers relish the renaissance of age-old caliphates. It is these very sentiments and naive impulses which remain entrenched in a tiny minority of brain-washed ideologically-conditioned South Asian militant fascists, hell-bent on super-imposing and force-feeding their narrowly distorted version of religion over all of society. It is this deadly and dreamy nostalgia that ISIS-K exploits to the hilt, riding on a populist, identity-based sectarian tide of insular dogma.
ISIS-K zealots, eerily growing in number, have snaked their way into Afghanistan, Bangladesh (witness the recent lynching of multiple secular bloggers), a radicalized minority in Pakistan and an inflammatory India where an orgy of RSS BJP induced communal violence and the lynching of Muslims has anti-climaxed to pre-partition 1947 proportions.
Such an inhumane treatment of Muslims in India, of wrongly accusing them of eating beef, gifts the ghastly ISIS-K India grounds to exploit legitimate Muslim grievances, and commit atrocities, take for instance the March 2017 Madhya Pradesh train blast claimed by a self-proclaimed Indian `emir` of ISIS-K.
Under Modi`s government, the so-called largest “democracy” on earth, India, is where religious, ethnic, minority and communal violence and bigotry are at an alarming high. The Dadri, Dimapur and Jharkhand mob lynches in India with flagrant human rights violations in Occupied Kashmir – a valley where tears flow from the eyes of mothers and pellets are fired into the eyes of their sons, where Burhan Wani is iconoclastically idolized as society gets radicalized – is igniting the country towards incendiary fascism. A highly toxic cocktail in a heavily nuclearized South Asia.
ISIS-K South Asia banks on a psychological breakdown of the Islamic society from deep within, which as witnessed above, is exactly what is occurring, leaving behind a trail of victims and an identity based insecurity vacuum swiftly filled by ISIS-K.
South Asia`s imperialist legacy and the British Raj have also left an indelible grievance and a victimhood subjugation mentality in South Asia. Scarring the egos, hearts and minds of angry insecure theocrats, whose offspring, to this day, remain intoxicated by an insatiable anger towards Western colonialists and coalition forces, makes it easier for ISIS-K and other terror miscreants to infiltrate their minds and incite their desire for historical revenge.
Such misplaced pent up frustration and anger is a malevolent malaise channeled and vented in all the wrong ways, for all the wrong reasons, by all the wrong people, which explains (to a degree) the recent spate of mob lynching in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and India.
ISIS-K and other militants, frothing at the mouth, feed off such frustration not only to survive but to thrive. Exacerbating ethnic sectarian and religious bigotry and bias, most notably between Shias and Sunnis, is their most favourite fetid past time – creating generational rifts amongst fellow Muslims in already highly-strung sectarian societies such as Afghanistan, India and Pakistan.
ISIS-K fascists articulate the artificiality of borders carved out during the British Raj. They highlight the “manufactured” nature of nation-states in the region and artificial borders carved up amongst them only to divide, rule and conquer. Interestingly, this conceptually feeds into Benedict Anderson`s seminal theory of nations being nothing more than “imagined communities”. Just like imperialist predecessors, ISIS too by accentuating a non-realistic global Caliphate seeks to super-impose an “ imagined community” over the Ummah, wilfully ignoring that there can never be a single interpretation of Islam. That Islam is a mosaic and not a monolith.
ISIS-K label all South Asian nation states as phony and convince malleable minds that existing governments are illegitimate sham democracies bought by the highest financial bidders. Pseudo-democracies and oligarchies for sale from rented states.
As ISIS in Iraq and Syria are suffering crushing defeat, where Syria is likely to be chopped up into multiple pieces, they have now focused their recruitment efforts in farther flung corners such as China’s Xinjiang province, the Caucasus, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia. With incremental but incessant momentum ISIS activates their terror cells in China, the Caucuses and South Asia via network building and establishing contacts with like-minded Salafi Takfiri radicals, weaving a web of influence in South and Central Asia to offset territorial setbacks in the Middle East. In Iraq itself ISIS has lost 50% of the territory it once held and 25% of its land grab in Syria has been reclaimed by the opposition.
From the get-go ISIS Khorasan (ISIS-K) South Asia was a secondary contingency plan if they were to lose the Middle East. Such contingency planning and back-up shows their ability of foresight and also unearths their expansionist aims and claims. They eventually envisage uniting radicals in Pakistan and Afghanistan, co-opting even the Taliban (which will never happen), as a single army and, at the same time, have been asking al-Qaeda (again impossible) to join their ranks in an unholy alliance to erect and establish a single Islamic caliphate.
As the initial Arab founders of IS were busy in the raging blood drenched battlefields of Iraq and Syria, they saw an opportunity with the fracturing of TTP and immediately started courting South Asian terror misfits to embrace their global franchise as local chapters in Afghanistan and Pakistan, just as any global trans-national entity would, in what this CQ author dubbed (in a previous CQ edition) as IS being a new breed of Multi-National Terrorist Corporation (MTC) ™ in the 21st century.
Establishment of Isis Khorasan: The Monster reaches South Asian doorsteps
From the ashes of a botched up Iraq invasion emerged ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Its preliminary territorial land grab attracted many terrorist outfits and recruits to its fold. In an already over-saturated South Asian terror theater, the self-proclaimed Caliph, Al-Baghdadi, and IS leadership declared Afghanistan, Pakistan and Northern India as the state of Khorasan envisioned to be led by IS in South Asia.
IS’s self-styled Khorasan Province branch (ISIS-K) has taken root in the mountainous areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan, intensifying its recruiting drive and terror attacks nationwide. The word Khorasan refers to a centuries-old description of Afghanistan and surrounding areas of Central Asia and Iran.
ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi appointed Qari Hafiz Saeed Khan, a former TTP leader of Orakzai agency, as the organization’s commander and the Wali (Governor) of the affiliate or Wilayat (Province) Khorasan for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The graphic hereunder casts light on ISIS Khorasan, the multiple stakeholders involved in Pakistan and Afghanistan and some of their competing claims:
Source: Singh, Hardeep (2016) The Quint, August 11, 2016.
Hafiz Saeed Khan lived in the tribal belt nestled between the Pak-Afghan border. Hafiz Saeed Khan became the head of a twelve member Shura (Committee) comprising of nine Pakistanis and two Afghans.
The composition of the Shura with nine Pakistanis has empowered ISIS-K to intensify operations more heavily in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The top brass of the Wilayat Khorasan Shura, have an established understanding of the Pakistani terrain, its security vulnerabilities and how to manipulate the grievances of its citizenry. Their clout, connections, tribal-feudal associations and know-how offer Wilayat Khorasan (aka ISIS-K) an augmented support and recruitment base in Pakistan. Shura member Omar Mansoor for instance has links to Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in Islamabad, a blatant networking nexus for militants.
The Shura’s link with the Lal Masjid could help ISIS establish connection with a myriad of mushrooming neo-terrorist alliances and could enable them to recruit from Deobandi madrassas all over Pakistan, linked to Lal Masjid. All the more reason why Pakistan`s intelligence agencies must keep Lal Masjid and its undesirables under microscopic scrutiny and accountability.
Notoriously, back in 2014 a girl`s seminary, Jamia Hafsa, associated with the controversial cross-dressing cleric Abdul Aziz of Lal Masjid pledged allegiance to ISIS in a video message. The cowardly cross-dressing cleric saving his own skin as usual pledged support for ISIS during various hate-spewing Lal Masjid sermons. Tashfeen Malik, of the San Bernardino attack infamy, was also linked to the Red Mosque. Tashfeen pledged allegiance to the demonic death cult ISIS in a social media message before unleashing hell in San Bernardino, USA.
ISIS-Khorasan in Afghanistan
Afghanistan was never a “final vision” for ISIS-K. Their premier aim was to convert pockets of Afghanistan’s soil into a “center for secondary spread” of the crumbling caliphate to facilitate the spread to farther-flung destinations. ISIS-K in Afghanistan, largely formed up of formerly embittered ex-Taliban members, is particularly interested in the peripheral provinces of Afghanistan, the eastern border regions of Iran, Central Asia (Russia), and China’s far-west Muslim Xinjiang Province, where recently ISIS Uighurs threatened rivers of blood in China.
Therefore, strategically speaking, Al-Baghdadi and his coterie of sycophants envision Afghanistan not as a simple extension of their “caliphate” but to fulfil the role of being a “launch pad” and “passage” given the strategic geography of Afghanistan as a nerve-center crucially connecting Central Asia to South Asia.
ISIS-K maintains that the Greater Khorasan region is the eastern portion of its caliphate, commencing from Central Asia, encompassing China, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and culminating in northern India. These lands were historically ruled by the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties. These dynasties, unlike the Crusaders, never imposed Islam by the sword but relied on the might and influence of the intellectual pen.
ISIS-K sets its strategic sights on three portions in Afghanistan. The first being the northeastern part of Afghanistan, which borders Fergana valley; China’s Xinjiang Province and Central Asia (including Central Asian Republics (CARs) such as Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan).
The second region encompasses Afghanistan’s Farah and Helmand regions as well as the southern part of the country, which strategically borders a nuclear Iran, increasingly relevant especially if the Iran deal and the Geneva talks unravel and an assertive Tehran decides to reassert her nuclear muscles. ISIS-K is attempting to gain influence in Helmand, where 91 % of Afghanistan’s opium is made – a lucrative and secure source of criminal revenue to finally consolidate its deadly domination over the region.
The third region is the eastern region, which nestles between Pakistan’s border regions and Afghanistan’s Khost and Nuristan provinces, a mountainous terrain whose umbilical cord stretches to Pakistan’s North Waziristan. Local groups, the Taliban, al-Qaeda and other trigger-happy terror active ethnicities like the Uyghurs, Uzbeks, Tajiks and some subgroups of al-Qaeda are present in this terror crowded region.
To begin with, the relation between ISIS-K and Taliban was peaceful. In July 2014 ISIS-K even convinced the Taliban to allow themselves into Afghanistan as yet another insurgent militant group that would share the (distorted) ‘Jihadi space’ alongside numerous other Central Asian and Middle Eastern zealots already active there. By the end of 2014 it became apparent that ISIS-K was pro-actively persuasively poaching Taliban commanders to its sway.
Tensions simmered and in February 2015 armed conflict reached boiling point between the two groups in Helmand, before swiftly spreading all over Afghanistan.
Still ISIS-K`s footprint in Afghanistan and Pakistan was comparably precarious as compared to the South Asian veteran, the Taliban. The most violent conflict between ISIS and the Taliban erupted in Nangarhar. From June 2015 onwards bitter tribal rivalries beset competing Taliban commanders. This was not, by any grand design, hatched by Daesh`s central command in Syira or Iraq.
ISIS-K, in a few instances, even tactically triumphed over the Taliban in places like Shinwari and Mohmand Dara in eastern Nangahar. This blatant turf war between ISIS-K and the Taliban implied that all ISIS-K associated units in Afghanistan came under mounting pressure from the Taliban.
Their Nangarhar victory was offset by the destruction of the pivotal ISIS-K base, in Kajaki (Helmand), and by the assault on numerous ISIS-K units in western Afghanistan, where the Taliban and the Iranian Pasdaran became bedfellows to battle Daesh.
View below the conceptual and strategic differences and similarities in the aims, methods and objectives of ISIS-K and Taliban:
Source: Sender, Hanna (2016) The Taliban and ISIS are more different than they are alike, International Business Times.
Afghanistan, already a war-wracked faltering state, has profoundly suffered from terrorism especially since 2001 following the ousting of the Taliban regime, the departure of US troops, and a theocratic fascist awakening across Central and South Asia. All of these realities render Afghanistan fertile future ground for ISIS-K radicalisation. Afghanistan might yet witness worse days ahead, given the presence of ISIS-K in its fold.
In 2014 and 2015 ISIS-K insurgents were mushrooming all over Afghanistan owing to commanders of the Taliban, Hizb-i Islami and other militants switching sides and forming new strategic allegiances. Subsequently, from spring 2015 onwards, a procedure of consolidation materialized, with ISIS-K seeking to birth robust bases in carefully selected localities – especially in easily defendable, mountainous terrains such as Khogyani and Mohmand Dara in eastern Nangarhar. Well-armed ISIS-K groups flocked to these areas.
The blood drenched Kabul suicide bombings in 2016, culminating in the death of 81 innocent Shia Hazara Afghans coupled with 300 injuries claimed by ISIS-K was by far the deadliest attack on Afghanistan`s capital since 2001. ISIS-K venomously shows its deadly presence in Afghanistan with a deafening bang. In April 2017, ISIS-K also claimed responsibility for several suicide bombings in urban cities, most recently at the gates of the presidential palace in Kabul, an attack that killed at least five people.
Over the past two years the self-appointed Islamic State fortified its foothold, especially in Northern and Eastern Afghanistan provinces, a stone` s throw away from Pakistan. ISIS-K has insidiously been active in eastern Afghanistan over the past two years. ISIS inflicted terror in Northern Jouzjan province, where six employees of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) were brutally killed. 1600 terrorists have pledged allegiance to ISIS in Nangahar. By March 2016, intelligence officials estimated that the group had 2,000 to 3,000 fighters across 11 districts.
Source: Institute for the Study of War (2016) ISIS-K control in Afghanistan, April 12, 2016.
The awakening of this new and unwanted Goliath on its Western borders of the Durand Line, itself a highly porous and permeable border gives Pakistan grave cause for concern. The Afghan spillover into Pakistan along with the Taliban spring offensive in 2016 further erodes the autonomy of an already quasi-impotent Kabul government. The district, provincial and regional governments remain confined to their urban epicenters, paving the way for ISIS-K militants to creep in and fill the void.
In Afghanistan, if ISIS is not immediately curtailed, it might flare up into an epic battle between the Islamic Republic and the Islamic State which faces rigid resistance from the Taliban, who are unwilling to cede ground without a fierce fight. Meanwhile, factions of TTP have been opportunistically fence-sitting, ready to throw in the towel and join the victors du jour.
Mother of all bombs or Mother lode of bad ideas?
Partly to reassert US leadership on a global scale, partly to quell ISIS-K`s cancerous spread in Afghanistan, partly to avenge the killing of a green beret, and most notably to send North Korea`s nuclear trigger-happy Kim Jung Un a decisive message to `reign it in`, President Trump and the US military, very soon after the Tomahawk missile attack on Syria, oversaw the US armed forces drop a 10 ton potent conventional non-nuclear bomb off a cargo plane, (the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB hereafter), colloquially labelled the “mother of all bombs”) on a cave complex in eastern Afghanistan`s mountain tunnels in the Tangi Assadkhel area of the Achin district in Nangarhar Province, a stronghold of ISIS-K.
This is part of a stealth American aerial campaign against ISIS-K, thus far averaging as many as 10 a day in the initial weeks of April 2017. This stealth maneuver was aimed at curtailing ISIS-K`s use of caves, tunnels and “an extensive belt of improvised explosive devices,” (roadside bombs), to resist Afghan and coalition operations. This exercise now allegedly leaves only around 700 ISIS-K fighters across 3 districts compared to their previous stronghold over 11 districts.
“This is the first time we have encountered an extensive obstacle to our progress that was constituted by I.E.D.s, the presence of tunnels and caves, and therefore the MOAB was an appropriate weapon to use at this time,” justified U.S. General Nicholson. “It was the right time to use it tactically against the right target on the battlefield, and it has enabled us to resume our offensive operations.” The hidden posts and safe havens of IS were hitherto impenetrable thus it was decided to use the MOAB bomb to render such posts vulnerable. As Criterion Quarterly goes to print there are no reports of civilian casualties as yet from the MOAB.
After the U.S. MOAB attack ISIS-K has been on the defensive throughout Afghanistan and even in Pakistan, where the TTP has intensified attacks against them. This is slowing (but certainly not eliminating) the recruitment drive by ISIS-K, despite the deep coffers and generous funds lavished by ISIS-K for new recruits. Now even in Nangarhar, where ISIS-K has been most territorially triumphant, the terrorists are ceding ground.
The Taliban have been recently revitalized by talks with Russia as the Kremlin courts them to forge an alliance to combat ISIS Khorasan, understandably ruffling feathers in Washington.
In the grander scheme of things, all these factors combined are strategically defeating for ISIS-K’s designs, as its initial image of being `an invincible organisation` is being shattered from every nook and corner of the globe. ISIS will eventually have to contend and reconcile themselves with accepting a digital Caliphate increasingly reliant on lone wolves and self-starters to do their bidding, as their physical Caliphate crumbles.
Even sources within ISIS-K reportedly confess to facing mounting pressure from some of its `well-oiled` donors to augment activities in other peripheral regions, like Central Asia, leveraging its well-honed contacts with Central Asian terror groups in northern Afghanistan. Strategically we witness a paradigm shift of ISIS moving away from the core (the Middle East) toward the periphery (Central Asia).
ISIS Khorasan in Pakistan
A short-lived truce titled the Waziristan Accord brokered in 2006 was unsurprisingly broken by the two-faced Taliban. Another day. Another bomb. Pakistan has been especially ensnared with the nefarious specter of trans-national and domestic terrorism since 2007 where reprobates from the venomous Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP hereafter) took an unacceptable toll of human lives.
Sadly, after the Pakistani state`s noteworthy assaults against the TTP in South Waziristan, swift follow up action was not executed and the theocratic fascists deep-rooted themselves in Northern Waziristan, where the rough and rugged treacherous topography and terrain enabled TTP to develop safe sanctuaries replete with training grounds, armaments, artilleries and even manufacturing units for suicide vests whilst brain-washing human clones to mount suicide assaults.
For inexplicable reasons, North Waziristan did not get sanitized by anti-terror operations, affording the TTP carte blanche to mount terror attacks on innocent victims with shocking impunity. US surgical drone strikes in North Waziristan allowed the TTP to relocate, whilst stoking intensified anger as at least 70,000 innocent Pakistanis lost their lives, whereby a war on terror become a war of terror.
When the PML-N government warmed the seats of power in June 2013, it cosseted peace talks with terrorist leaders but it became promptly ostensible that the forerunners of doom and gloom were only utilizing such talks as a distracting `delay tactic` to regroup, reassemble and rearm themselves, whilst attacking the Karachi airport leaving heavy scores of human casualties. By means of reprisal, the noteworthy military operation of Zarb-e-Azb was inaugurated with full fury, encompassing both aerial and ground assaults.
The precision of aerial surveillance technologies allowed Pakistan`s armed forces to pin-point the exact whereabouts of the terrorists, locating their safe sanctuaries, arms, artilleries and training camps and targeting them with meticulous precision, whilst avoiding civilian casualties. Pakistan efficaciously flushed out large swathes of TTP led torment from its topsoil.
Certain terror top brass were killed in the attacks while others wormed their way into Afghanistan. Their backs were broken, yet the TTP managed to subsequently spearhead unconscionable acts of terror on our Army Public School children in Peshawar and the University of Charsadda, inflicting an unacceptable loss of young innocent lives. The APS and Charsadda inhumane Genocide renewed the resolve of a nation on the edge and in fury to reclaim its safety and defeat the terrorists.
Sweep up operations with vigilant and far-reaching assaults on TTP safe havens, by the highly able former COAS Raheel Sharif and his brilliant cadre, significantly `contained` terror and Operation Zarb-e-Azb was rightly dubbed a triumph.
Operation Zarb-i-Azb`s success splintered and dispirited TTP, whereby a few of its rank and file were immediately ready to sell their soul to ISIS-K for survival. Thereafter a few splinter groups of TTP swore allegiance to the so-called ISIS-K whose ethos is a hardwired hatred for humanity. Despite some sporadic attacks, where ISIS-K eagerly claimed responsibility, it could not find an easy foothold in Pakistan due to Operation Zarb-i-Azb and the Rangers clean-up operations, thus it was constrained to concentrate in Afghanistan. However recently their clout in Pakistan has augmented as miscreants from Afghanistan cross the perilous porous border into Pakistan.
Back in September 2014, ISIS commenced its treacherous attempt to intensify its sphere of influence in Pakistan by distributing propaganda leaflets in Peshawar and in bordering provinces of Afghanistan. The twelve page propaganda pamphlet titled Fatah (victory) was published in Pashto and Dari languages to ideologically indoctrinate whomsoever read it, and was distributed in Peshawar along with Afghan refugee camps striding the outskirts of the city.
The logo of their propaganda pamphlet bore the Kalma, the historical stamp and declaration of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and a Kalashnikov assault rifle. Some copies were also mysteriously sent to Afghan journalists working in Peshawar.
ISIS knew exactly how to hit a raw nerve and how to prey on the vulnerable – especially on displaced refugees who had risked life and limb, kith and kin to save their lives and had nothing more to lose.
Since time immemorial, Afghan militant resistance organizations, including the Haqqani Network (greatly disrupted by Operation Zarb-i-Azb) Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan and the Tora Bora group have published similar propaganda pamphlets, magazines and divisive hate literature in Peshawar’s black markets. However none of their propaganda campaigns were as slick, catchy, or media-savvy as that of ISIS. Their twelve page Fatah pamphlet immediately caught the eye, making a strong ideological appeal to malleable minds amongst the local population for supporting its struggle for the establishment of a so -called `Islamic` Caliphate, which obviously is a perverted distortion of Islam and actually represents a profoundly intolerant theocratic fascist super-imposition by a deluded cult of death merchants and megalomaniacs.
There are competing narratives and conflicting reports about the presence and operations of ISIS in Pakistan. This account aspires to be as truthful, investigative and impartial as possible.
In February 2016, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar stated, “The Daesh (ISIS-K) has no presence in Pakistan. The other militant groups which are already involved in anti-state activities are using its name.” On the other hand, Aftab Sultan, DG of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) declared in front of the Senate Standing Committee on Interior in the same month, “Daesh was emerging as a threat in Pakistan because certain militant groups had a soft corner for it.” Examples of such groups include Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and Sipah-i-Sahaba and Ahle-Sunnat-Wal-Jamaat.
Mr. Amir Rana, a security expert and director of the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) informed this author in an interview that ISIS have taken root in Pakistan whereby current extremists are drawing rabid inspiration from ISIS who are the global trendsetters in unleashing shock-and-awe terror like never before. Lt General (r) Khalid Munir informed this author in an interview that ISIS does not pose an imminent or immediate threat to Pakistan because they are the same radicals operating under a new nomenclature, new cover same pages, so to speak.
This writer begs of course to respectfully differ with the esteemed Lt General (r) Munir, as I believe, based on empirical evidence that ISIS, if left unchecked, presents a clear, present and imminent danger to Pakistanis.
Daesh’s ideological allure, global franchise, branding outreach, meaningful financial coffers and social media ubiquity afford it room even in Pakistan’s already crowded extremist space. ISIS-K`s agenda and narrative—which is anti-Shia, anti-Pakistan, anti- West, pro-Caliphate, and pro-Kashmir liberation sentiments—render it appealing to fanatical half-wits such as the unsavoury Ahle-Sunnat-Wal-Jamaat, Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and Sipah -i-Sahaba who have all supported ISIS in the past20 and are likely to do so in the future. This necessitates that we intensify the scrutiny, monitoring and reporting of their illicit activities.
New radical outfits are springing up, for example Sawt-al-Ummah pledged allegiance to ISIS. This group is an offshoot of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, whose campaign of support for an Islamic Caliphate (by instigating military coups) could sway its members to gravitate toward ISIS. Hizb-ut-Tahrir`s recruitment is especially potent and persuasive at universities, outside mosques and in swaying disgruntled prisoners towards extremism by exploiting their vulnerability.
However, the most poignant militant group in Pakistan, the TTP, has not expressed support for ISIS elements in South Asia, owing to its unholy alliance with the Afghan Taliban, which has suffered territorial setbacks to ISIS since 2015. The LeT bears animosity towards ISIS as, unlike ISIS-K, LeT does not attack citizens within Pakistan; however, there have reportedly been former LeT members who have defected to ISIS in Syria.
A number of militant outfits operating in Pakistan (but mostly in Afghanistan) have notoriously pledged allegiance and loyalty to ISIS-K; they include the ill-reputed Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost and Maulvi Abdul Qahar, stalwarts of Salafi Takfiri militancy operating in eastern Afghanistan`s Nuristan and Kunar provinces.
The Ahrar-ul Islam, a faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), is already working along the lines of ISIS. Ahrar-ul-Islam do not recognize Westphalian territorial boundaries or states between Islamic countries, and are working for the establishment of a region-wide militant network throughout Southern and Central Asia. The group doesn’t recognize al Baghdadi as the caliph, but considered Mullah Omar (Afghan Taliban`s now deceased founder) as a ‘ commander of the faithful’, echoing the sentiments held by the TTP . Similar is the status of the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), also known as Hizb-e-Islami Turkistan.
ISIS-K in Pakistan draws funding primarily from donations by sympathisers, particularly from opaque Takfiri Salafi exporting Gulf States, via groups like Abt-al-ul-Islam. ISIS-K militant operations are bankrolled (though recently curtailed) via informal hawala (funds transfer) networks from abroad, which underscores a dire need to formalize the informal economy, intensify stock exchange subscription and legislate more stringent Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and fund transfer laws.
During the blood-drenched Safoora Chowrangi bus butchery in Karachi several ISIS supporters were implicated of regularly donating to the group. ISIS-K also raises funds through criminal activities. Again in Karachi, a police detainee with alleged ties to Daesh confessed to committing a series of bank robberies in Sindh and Balochistan to fund terrorist acts.
Along with infiltration into Pakistan via Afghanistan, ISIS are equipping themselves with logistical and financial firepower and training and embedding `assets` in their host communities. Quantitative estimates of the strength of ISIS membership and support in Pakistan, according to a 2016 Royal United Services Institute report, state that there were 7,000–8,000 ISIS members based in Afghanistan and 2,000–3,000 based in Pakistan – this includes both fighters and support elements. However, in its annual report on foreign fighters in Syria, the authoritative New York based security consultancy firm, the Soufan Group, estimated that as of August 2015 some 70–330 Pakistani nationals had travelled to Syria to fight for Daesh.
ISIS-K in Punjab
Pakistani authorities, on the other hand, offered alternative estimates. In early 2016, Mr Rana Sanaullah, Punjab Law Minister, estimated that no more than one hundred persons had left Pakistan to join Daesh. Some of these are educated citizens. A glaring example being Noreen Leghari, a girl with a promising future who was brain-washed and battle-hardened in ISIS hinterland. She returned to Pakistan and was ready to don a suicide vest in April 2017 to blow up all and sundry to smithereens on Easter.
Mr Sanaullah added that Daesh (a synonym for ISIS-K) would not be allowed to establish `roots` in Pakistan. Pakistani intelligence agencies must closely monitor those 100-300 Pakistani citizens returning from Iraq and Syria, placing them on a discrete high alert high-threat `watch list`. As it is, often those battle-hardened disgruntled dogmatic discontents who return back and reintegrate into Pakistani society (or any other country for that matter) do so to solely sow the seeds of death, demolition and destruction.
In Punjab, Pakistani authorities uncovered a similar network of women in Lahore in December 2015. Pakistani authorities have discovered Punjab based ISIS supporters who, though they had no ties to Wilayat Khorasan had established links with ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
In 2015, one such group based in Daska tehsil of Sialkot with eight suspects (three of which had received military training) were arrested. They comprised of former Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jamaatud-Dawa misfits who had taken oaths to impose a Caliphate in Pakistan and were sending Pakistani volunteers to Daesh training camps in Syria.16 Another cell uncovered in Lahore consisted of well-educated women, who reportedly left for Syria with twenty others to fight alongside Daesh in 2015. Both cells deployed social media to lure new recruits.
ISIS-K recruitment includes recruitment networks in other major urban areas. For instance in April 2016, Karachi police released a statement alleging that more than two dozen Daesh-linked militants were operating in Karachi. Their venomous ideology has seeped its way into South Punjab, which is why the military Operation Radd-ul-Fasad is extremely well timed and required.
Pakistan`s Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) and intelligence agencies are working day and night to curtail ISIS-K`s activities. In September 2016 for instance the CTD pro-actively arrested at least four terrorists belonging to Daesh, during a joint raid in Allama Iqbal Town in Lahore.
The arrested suspects were Abdullah Aalam, Muhammad Hafeez, Nisar Ahmed and Ahmed Tassawur who were planning to target government buildings and sensitive installations in the provincial capital. As per reports two 2kg explosives, detonators and weapons were recovered during the operation near the Moon Market area.
In September 2016 Pak Army spokesperson Lieutenant General Asim Bajwa briefed media outlets that the law enforcement agencies have so far arrested 309 people associated with Islamic State (IS) in Pakistan. Lieutenant General Bajwa stated that major terror attacks planned by IS on targets, including the ministry of foreign affairs, foreign embassies, consulates and their staff, the Islamabad airport, prominent public figures, media persons and law enforcement personnel, were pro-actively averted.
ISIS-K in KPK and FATA
ISIS-K have been notoriously active in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and Fata where the rugged terrain, geography (close proximity to a porous Afghanistan) and demography all conspire to serve their sinister agenda. In April 2017 authorities announced that ‘at least’ 24 members of the Islamic State (IS) that had been involved in ‘several coordinated attacks’ had been arrested and ‘their networks’ brought down in Peshawar.
ISIS in Fata have been especially active from their targeted killing of three soldiers in September 2016 to the killing of a FATA secretariat employee in June 2016. On March 21, 2017 five terrorists, including an IS commander, were killed in an intelligence based operation (IBO) in Orakzai Agency. IS were planning to target the Shia Nauroz (New Year) festivals.
In February 2017, pamphlets with the Daesh insignia were distributed in Pakistan`s border area of Kurram Agency. The black and white printouts, with images of beheadings, states that after Daesh’s success in Afghanistan, it will be intensifying activities in Pakistan’s tribal belt of Hangu and Dera Ismail Khan. Such areas must immediately be placed on high alert.
ISIS-K in Sindh
In Sindh thus far the Ranger`s clean-up operation since two years has been momentous – nabbing many terror sanctuaries. In early 2016 Sindh police’s Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) asserted that it has not detected the direct presence of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Karachi or other parts of the province so far, but there are self-styled militants operating in small, individual groups after becoming inspired by the Middle East-based terrorist organisation.
Such ISIS inspired lone wolves are autonomous terrorists stated Raja Umer Khattab, the CTD Anti-Transnational Terrorists Intelligence Group chief. “Our continuous operations have busted the networks of these like-minded groups,” he added.
“In Pakistan, al-Qaeda and TTP operatives are working together and targeting officials and installations of security forces,” he said. “Their affiliation with ISIS isn’t possible as the latter has basically dislodged al-Qaeda in Syria and Iraq. The AQIS and TTP are working together and recruiting young, religious-minded people at educational institutions,” the official added. Crackdowns were launched with the assistance of intelligence agencies and several terrorists were arrested in Karachi.
Most of them were former members of religious groups or parties who were expelled over their militant tendencies. Citing examples, Khattab mentioned Saad Aziz and Khalid Yousuf Bari, both well educated middle class citizens, who were arrested by the CTD for their involvement in the tragic Karachi Safoora Goth shooting where 47 members of the Ismaili community were atrociously gunned down in May 2015. The banned extremist outfit Jundallah claimed responsibility for the bus shooting. Pamphlets supporting ISIL, with whom Jundallah claims allegiance, were also found at the crime scene.
Although Wilayat Khorasan initially claimed responsibility for the Safoora Goth attack, the atrocity seems to have been masterminded by a Pakistan-based cell headed by Saad Aziz, a former Al Qaeda sympathizer who lacked any discernible links to or contact with Wilayat Khorasan or Daesh in Syria and Iraq.
Deeper investigation also reveals that Bari (the other Safoora culprit) independently provided funds and shelter to the members of his group and that Bari’s wife, Naheed Baji, formed an organisation called Idara-e-Al Zakirah Academy in Baloch Colony via which she recruited women for the group and delivered hateful speeches inspired by ISIS. There were about 20 women from affluent educated backgrounds working for the academy. At the academy, young women were brainwashed and delegated to amass financing for the group through Zakat (alms giving) and donations.
During interrogation, Bari himself confessed that he was previously associated with the Tanzeem-e-Islami and, after experiencing differences with the organisation, he joined the Dr Akmal Waheed group, an al-Qaeda affiliate. Bari was also associated with al-Qaeda Karachi chief Umer Jalal. Apart from being involved in terrorist attacks itself, the group facilitated al-Qaeda both financially and logistically.
The Safoora Goth terror manifestly exhibits that groups in Sindh and all over Pakistan have internalized Daesh’s ideology and their Apocalyptic world-view despite having no direct link to ISIS nor its regional affiliate nor its headquarters in the Levant. Such groups open the possibility for disparate autonomous cells to form. They also provide a platform for ISIS to commence operational ties with or inspire the actions of unconnected local cells that share its abhorrent sectarian agenda, which could perniciously bolster ISIS’s capacity to carry out more elaborate attacks in Pakistan`s near-future. Time and again ISIS have proven, the world over, that they are neither to be taken lightly nor to be undermined.
ISIS` presence in Sindh was tragically reinforced in February 16, 2017, as a suicide bomber struck devotees at a Sufi shrine at Sehwan, Sindh, where 88 innocent souls professing their faith perished and over a 300 were injured beyond belief. Deash claimed responsibility through its media wing.
ISIS in Balochistan
The presence of ISIS in Balochistan was felt for the first time after the killing of Balochistan Bar Association, Advocate Bilal Anwer Kasi, on August 8, 2016. His body was taken to the Civil Hospital Quetta. As lawyers gathered at the hospital to pay homage to the deceased another terrorist attack occurred. This time, a suicide bomb attack took over 70 lives and injured many more. ISIS claimed responsibility for this attack. The attack seemed in line with India’s attempt to destabilize Balochistan and, as a result, CPEC.
This attack was followed by the Police Training Academy attack in Quetta (collaboration between Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and ISIS) and the attack on the Shah Noorani sufi shrine.
Balochistan remains a strategically important province for Pakistan because of its natural resources and deep-sea port of Gwadar. The province, with its rugged terrain and borders with not only the other provinces of Pakistan but also Iran and Afghanistan, seems to be the ideal place for ISIS to establish its safe havens and implement its expansionist strategies.
Source: Al Jazeera (2017) attacks on shrines since 2005 in Pakistan.
Recommendations – The Roadmap Ahead
Despite desperate disavowals from all official quarters, ISIS is on a full-throttle recruitment drive in South Asia. This recruitment is orchestrated for financing, geographical spread, autonomy and ideological reinforcement,.
In order to assert its terror credentials – vis-à-vis donors and future recruits – ISIS-K will seek to intensify its targeting of the Afghan government, the Russian-Taliban alliance, Iranian and Western interests. However, ISIS-K has not yet demonstrated the credibility, capabilities nor the ‘numbers’ of fighters to dent so many actors that are spread across so many operational theaters.
ISIS-K is trying to exploit the patchwork of ethnicities and religious sects present in Afghanistan and Pakistan, however, over the long haul ISIS-K will prove a fragmenting fiefdom; a drop in an ocean of warring militant factions; one of the many loud but shallow voices hurling for religious absolutism. They might eventually reconcile themselves for a digital caliphate as opposed to a physical caliphate, which al-Baghdadi has in fact already alluded to.
Specifically for Pakistan, the inauguration of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) marshals multiple merits and contributes to peace in the erstwhile strife torn region. CPEC ushers in economic progress and development. It indicates to miscreants that they will sorely miss out if they do not mount atop the prosperity bandwagon of growth. Many are heeding the government`s clarion call to lay down their arms and align themselves with future progress.
Enemies of Pakistan, both internal and external, keep trying to derail CPEC. To their detriment, CPEC continues to gain momentum and their heinous plot to destabilize Pakistan along with other nefarious conspiracies are being thwarted by a staunch security apparatus .36
The international community, with Russia taking the lead, has commenced to accept the Afghan Taliban as a political reality, especially in its bid to take on ISIS-K and act as a bulwark against it. The Afghan National Unity Government and its Indian sympathizers fail to see the advantage of giving political oxygen to the Taliban (even if only temporarily) in order to bring peace in Afghanistan because they fear being displaced from their seat in the government by the Taliban.
Pakistan is a major stakeholder in the peace process in Afghanistan, since the ripple effect of a destabilized Afghanistan causes tremors in Pakistan37, whose major development projects like the Central Asia-South Asia power project, known by the acronym CASA-1000 38 (a $1.16 billion project currently under construction that will allow for the export of surplus hydroelectricity from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to Pakistan and Afghanistan) and the Turkmenistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan–India Pipeline (TAPI)39 are contingent upon peace in Afghanistan.
The need of the hour is for Pakistan and Afghanistan to cast aside differences and cement coordination and cooperation in their erstwhile attempts to counter radical militancy. The common enemy of both neighbours is terrorism, which is now visible in the shape of ISIS-K. Pooling their intelligence resources can achieve a much needed momentum in `countering and containing` (if not totally eliminating) the ISIS so that it fails to establish its roots even in Afghanistan. Neither Afghanistan nor Pakistan can elevate to their true potential as long as terrorism rules the roost.
After APS, Charsadda, Quetta, Awara, Mohmand, Parachinar40, Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Safoora Chowrangi, Lahore`s Mall Road blast and countless other atrocities, Pakistani society has wholesale rejected extremism and terrorism and is struggling to reclaim moderation and the Quaid`s vision of Pakistan through Zarb-e-Azb, Radd-ul-Fassad, CPEC, CASA, TAPI and the brokering of the recent ECO Summit in Islamabad for regional stability, which Afghan senior leaders did not attend to their detriment41.
Afghanistan must rekindle positive neighborly relations with Pakistan, shed nefarious alliances with the mischief-making RAW and learn from Pakistan’s experience on how to contain radicalization without playing the age-old `blame game`.
Pakistan’s response to ISIS-K must be multi-pronged and multifaceted. The strategy implemented thus far against ISIS-K has primarily been through military action. Stealth military operations in 2015 swept out militant safe havens in the FATA, but these terrorists, including Wilayat Khorasan (ISIS-K), made an unholy migration to Afghanistan or Balochistan, in the latter’s case aided and abetted by RAW to derail CPEC. Pakistan must now deploy fast-track bilateral and multilateral diplomacy with Afghanistan to combat this looming terror menace, focusing on better border control to stem the flow of terrorists between both nations. Border dispute resolution is essential.
An effective effort to combat Daesh requires a civilian organization at the helm of national affairs to assess, plan, sensitize, strategize and orchestrate national counterterrorism (CT ) efforts vis-à-vis ISIS-K and other militant misfits. The movement of radicals to urban cities ensuing the clean-up operations in FATA requires a more significant role by the local police. They can be as effective as the military as they are permanently stationed in their communities. Recent training co-operation between the IB and police is noteworthy.
A national CT stratagem could confine the utilization of paramilitary wings for operations in semi-governed `tough` areas like the FATA and Baluchistan and should simultaneously prioritize long-term training, sensitization, logistical and operational capacity building for police and civilian intelligence services to contain extremist elements in these areas.
Print and electronic media should starve terrorists from the publicity oxygen they strive for. Counter terrorism must, by course of necessity, involve civil society, activist youth and grass-roots movements to counter the main strength of ISIS-K in Pakistan – the resonance of its insidious ideology amongst different segments of Pakistani society.
These plans, as an ensemble, should rectify Pakistan’s lethal anti-state sectarian divisions through debate, dialogue, inter-faith inter-sect goodwill building, workshops, community cohesion programs, poverty mitigation programs, and resilience programs by our military intelligence apparatus, government, bureaucracy, donors, foreign missions and the well-funded deep-pocketed private sector. This will all help to conceptually contain and curtail Wilayat Khorasan and other fundamentalists in their tracks and stem the tide of their recruitment.
The government must designate grass-root community organizations at the federal, provincial, district and tehsil (union) levels which develop an alternative vision, a national narrative of democracy, liberal inclusive values, tolerance, pluralism, multi-faith acceptance and the rule of law to counter and contain the virulent spread of ISIS-like ideology.
Finally, this strategy must counter militant propaganda in all its stripes shapes and forms, by empowering minorities and, most notably, marginalized women and youth, through comprehensive and sustained outreach aspirations.42 For women and youth are our beacons and brand ambassadors who represent our promise and potential for a better and brighter Pakistan.
The opinions expressed in this essay are analytical and expert views offered by field specialists who have been duly cited and referenced at length, and do not necessarily always overlap with this author`s nor with Criterion Journal`s official stance.
Khalid, Ozer (2016) The Specter of Multi-National Terrorism in the 21st century, from a Clash of Civilizations to a Consensus Coalition, Criterion Quarterly, Volume 11, Number 1, May 27 (2016). Accessible to readers at http://www.criterion-quarterly. com/the-spectre-of-multi-national-terrorism-in-the-21st-century/
Khalid, Ozer (2017) Islamabad`s ECO Summit, Express Tribune, March 3, 2017, accessible at https://tribune.com.pk/story/1344259/islamabads-eco-summit/
Khalid, Ozer (2017) How Trump`s Anti Terror Strategy affects Pakistan, ARY Digital News, January 24, 2017. The article can be accessed at https://blogs.arynews.tv/trump-pakistan-terrorism/
Khalid, Ozer (2017) Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad: Pakistan`s Historic Calling, The Express Tribune, February 27, 2017 the article can be accessed at https://tribune. com.pk/story/1339945/operation-radd-ul-fasaad-pakistans-historic-calling/
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1- Whose now deceased head, Mullah Omar, is still considered as its ideological icon.
2- Led by Hafiz Saeed, whose public, political and charitable arm is called Jamaat-ud-Dawah.
3- Naveeni, P. (2017) “Madhya Pradesh train blast: ‘Mastermind’ Al-Qasim, a self-proclaimed India ‘emir’ of ‘Khorasan group’”. Times of India. 8 March, 2017.
4- “Indian mob kills man over beef eating rumour” (2015) Al Jazeera. 1 October 2015.
5- See excellently Anderson, Benedict (1983) Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism.
6- Khalid, Ozer (2016) The Specter of Multi-National Terrorism in the 21st centu-ry, from a Clash of Civilizations to a Consensus Coalition, Criterion Quarterly, Volume 11, Number 1, May 27 (2016). Accessible to readers at http://www. criterion-quarterly.com/the-spectre-of-multi-national-terrorism-in-the-21st-century/
7- “Interview with the Wali of Khurasan ” (2015) Dabiq, Issue 13, 48-58.
8- Kumar, Rao (2016) “ISIS in Afghanistan, part 3: Analyzing Wilayat Khorasan’s Propaganda,” (2016) Al-Jibaal Fi Hadha Dunya, February 20, 2016.
9- Antonio Giustozzi (2016) “The Islamic State in ‘Khorasan’: A Nuanced View,” RUSI, February 5, 2016.
10- The San Bernardino shooter`s husband, Syed Farooq, grew up in an abusive home and witnessed the father attack the mother, which accentuates the need for early mental health intervention along with the perils of domestic violence.
11- For a deeper overview of terrorism in China: Zenn, Jacob (2014). “Beijing, Kunming, Urumqi and Guangzhou: The Changing Landscape of Anti-Chinese Jihadists”. China Brief. Jamestown Foundation. 14 (10), 23 May, 2014.
12- Warren Fiske & Amy Sherman (2015) Trump says Iran deal forces U.S. to de-fend Iran if it’s attacked by Israel, PolitiFact, September 4, 2015.
13- “Al-Furqān Media Presents a New Audio Message from the Islamic State’s Shaykh Abū Muhammad al ‘Adnānī al-Shāmī: ‘Say, Die In Your Rage,’ (2015)” Jihadology, January 26, 2015.
14- Dr. Antonio Giustozzi (2016) RUSI, Daesh has established a foothold in Af-ghanistan, but its rivalry with the Taliban means its success is far from assured, Afghanistan, International Security Studies, Terrorism 5 February 2016.
15- Mazhar I Sharif (2017) ISIS guns down 6 ICRC workers in Afghanistan, Times of Islamabad February, 8 2017.
16- Web Desk, (2016) Rise of ISIS in Afghanistan: The monster has reached at the doorstep; GENERAL, Times of Islamabad, July, 24, 2016.
17- Green beret refers to an American Special Forces soldier Staff Sgt. Mark R. De Alencar, 37, was killed near there.
18- Mujib, Mashal, Abed Fahim, Zahra Nader, Helen Cooper, Camilla Schick and Mark Scheffler (2017) ‘Mother of All Bombs’ Killed Dozens of Militants, Afghan Officials Say, New York Times, April 14, 2017.
19- An acronym for Improvised Explosive Detection.
20- Griffiths, James; Starr, Barbara and Dewan, Angela (2017) “US defends dropping ‘mother of all bombs’”. CNN, April 14, 2017.
21- Ackerman, Spencer; Rasmussen, Sune Engel (2017) “36 Isis militants killed in US ‘mother of all bombs’ attack, Afghan ministry says”. The Guardian. April 14 , 2017.
22- Charlsy Panzino (2017) “CENTCOM: US drops ‘mother of all bombs’ on ISIS in Afghanistan”. Air Force Times. 13 April 2017.
23- For a historical take on Pakistan and terrorism review: Bjørgo, Tore; John Horgan (2009). Leaving Terrorism Behind: Individual and Collective Disengagement. Taylor & Francis. Especially pp. 1-228.
24- Golovnina, Maria and Amjad Ali (2014) “Peace talks between Pakistan and Taliban collapse after killings”. Reuters. February 17, 2014.
25- Khan, Wajahat S (2014) “Zarb-e-Azb: Gear up for the ‘forever war’”. A series of special reports on Operation Zarb-e-Azb by the newspaper’s National Security Editor. The News. 14 October, 2014.
26- “Pakistani Taliban Splinter Group Again Pledges Allegiance to Islamic State,” (2015) Long War Journal, January 13, 2015.
27- The Haqqani Network is a Sunni extremist organization utilizing fifth generation asymmetric warfare techniques to counter U.S. led NATO forces and the Afghan government, founded by Jalaluddin Haqqani, who became a top tier Afghan insurgent commander during the anti-Soviet war; for more on the Haqqani network read: Mazzetti, Mark, Scott Shane and Alissa J. Rubin (2011). “Brutal Haqqani Crime Clan Bedevils U.S. in Afghanistan”. The New York Times, 24 September, 2014. For a deeper investigation into this topic read the Pulitzer prize winning Mark Mazetti`s (2013) The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth, Penguin Press, 2013.
28- The Hezb-e Islami faction was led by the Mujahedin commander Younis Khalid and previously included Jalaludin Haqqani amongst its ranks.
29- SPILLOVER EFFECT: ISIS MAKES INROADS INTO PAKISTAN (2014), THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE, 3 SEPTEMBER, 2014.
30- “Nisar Says Daesh Has No Presence in Pakistan,” (2016) Pakistan Herald, February 13, 2016.
31- Khan, Iftikhar A. (2016) The director general of the Intelligence Bureau, Aftab Sultan, informed the Senate Standing Committee on Interior that the militant Islamic State group was emerging as a threat in the country., Dawn, Feb, 11 2016.
32- Out of Afghanistan`s 34 provinces it is mostly in the North Eastern provinces where ISIS have tenuously institutionalized a support base.
33- Web Desk (2016) Daesh in Pakistan, Pakistan Today, September 16, 2016.
34- Gishkori, Zaheed (2015) “National Action Plan: Pakistan in fresh push to choke terror funding”. Express Tribune, 2015. Express Tribune, January 10, 2015.
35- “Daesh Commander Claims 44 Terrorism Acts in Deathbed Confessions,” (2016) Frontier Post, March 18, 2016.
36- “Foreign Fighters: An Updated Assessment of the Flow of Foreign Fighters into Syria and Iraq,” (2015) Soufan Group, December 2015.
37- “About 100 Left Pakistan for Syria, Iraq to join Daesh: Sanaullah,” (2016) National International, January 4, 2016.
38- Abid Hussain, Umer Farooq, Ghulam Dastageer, and Shair Ali Khan (2016) “Islamic Republic versus Islamic State,” Herald, March 2016.
39- Chaudhary, Asif (2015) “IS Cell Busted in Sialkot, Claim Officials,” Dawn News, December 29, 2015.
40- Cheema, Umar “20 Men, Women, Children from Lahore Join Daesh, Go to Syria,” (2015) Geo News, December 31, 2015.
41- Ali, Imtiaz (2016) “25 ‘IS Inspired Militants’ Operating in Karachi: CTD Police,” Dawn News, April 7, 2016.
42- Web Desk (2016) Daesh in Pakistan, Pakistan Today, September 16, 2016.
43- Not so imaginary after all (2017) Express Tribune, April 9, 2017.
44- Arfeen, Syed (2017) Daesh in Pakistan, GEO TV, February, 16, 2017.
45- CTD Official (2016) In Karachi, ISIS present in spirit only, The News, January, 25 2016.
47- CTD Official (2016) In Karachi, ISIS present in spirit only, The News, January, 25 2016.
48- Ali, Imtiaz (2015) “Four Well-Educated Men Held on Terrorism Charge,” Dawn News, December 9, 2015, www.dawn.com/news/1227381; Salls Bin Parwaiz (2016) “In Karachi ISIS Present in Spirit Only,” The News, January 25, 2016.
49- Janowski, Kris (2015) “Aga Khan Shocked and Saddened by Attack on the Ismaili Community in Pakistan”. Gouvieux, France: Aga Khan Development Network. 13 May 2015.
50- Ahmad, Tufail (2015) “Massacre of Ismaili Muslims in Karachi Indicates Islamic State’s (ISIS’s) Rise in Pakistan; South Asia’s Shi’ites Could Face Serious Danger,” MEMRI, Inquiry & Analysis Series 1158, May 14, 2015.
51- Hashmi, Talha (2017) “Sehwan suicide bomber was not female: CTD official Raja Umar Khattab”. Geo TV, 17 February, 2017.
52- With the Chinese government bringing close collaboration, infrastructure and a security apparatus.
53- Hali M. Sultan (2017) IS Threat and Pakistan, Pakistan Observer, March 31, 2017.
54- For further reading on CASA 1000 consult Putz, Catherin (2016) “World Bank Tries to Answer CASA-1000 Criticisms”. The Diplomat. 11 May, 2016
55- Also known as Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline, a natural gas pipeline being developed by the Asian Development Bank which is headquartered in Manila. The pipeline will transport Caspian Sea natural gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan into Pakistan and then over to India. For more on this topic view LeVine, Steve (2007) The Oil and the Glory: The Pursuit of Empire and Fortune on the Caspian Sea. Random House. Especially from pp. 1-293.
56- Afzal, Hussain (2017) “Carnage at Parachinar market; 25 killed, 87 injured”. Dawn, January 22, 2017.
57- Khalid, Ozer (2017) Islamabad`s ECO Summit, Express Tribune, March 3, 2017.
58- Not so imaginary after all (2017) Express Tribune, April 9, 2017.