IS may recruit locals by exploiting sectarian divide: official

Updated December 10, 2014

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The image shows an IS militant. — Photo by AFP/File
The image shows an IS militant. — Photo by AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The government realises that the Islamic State militant group (Daish) is a potential threat that can benefit from the changing militant landscape here and exploit the sectarian schism by signing up new recruits.

“It would be dishonest to say Daish is not a threat, knowing the contacts between it and Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Afghan Taliban,” National Security Committee Secretary Muhammad Sadiq said at the concluding session of a two-day conference on ‘Flashpoints of the South Asian security – A review of political and security architecture in the Subcontinent’, organised by the Strategic Vision Institute (SVI), an Islamabad-based think tank.

The ministry of foreign affairs said last week that the government had arrested most of the people linked to Daish graffiti in various cities.

Read: Some suspects behind IS graffiti arrested, says FO

The wall-chalking campaign and leaflets prompted fears about the terrorist group making inroads in the country.

Nevertheless, Daish had attracted militants and sectarian groups because of its successes in Syria and Iraq. Six TTP commanders had in October sworn allegiance to self-anointed caliph Abubakr Baghdadi.

Mr Sadiq said: “Daish has not challenged the security scene here, but sees this region as a potential recruitment ground.”

Also read: Anti-Islamic State graffiti emerges in Karachi

He discussed the factors that could help the group in recruiting new fighters.

“With the weakening of TTP after operations in North Waziristan and Khyber Agency and displacement of Haqqanis many foot soldiers of terrorism would be looking for new leadership and resources and Daish is a natural source of attraction for them,” he observed.

Moreover, he said, anti-Shia forces were attracted towards Daish, which was viewed as an effective player that could counter their influence in South Asia.

A big hurdle in Daish’s way is the controversy over who would be ‘emirul momineen’ – Baghdadi or Taliban chief Mullah Omar. The latter has not been seen since 2002.

“Questions are being raised in militant circles if Mullah Omar’s emirate is still valid because he hasn’t been seen for years and there are doubts if he is even alive,” Mr Sadiq said.

He expressed the fear that Pakistan could be in for big trouble if a more brutal and vicious Daish succeeded in replacing the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

NATIONAL SECURITY POLICY: About the long-awaited National Security Policy, Mr Sadiq said, its first draft would be ready by mid-January.

The preparation of the policy is being done in a manner that it provides time to ministries to seek budgetary allocations in fiscal 2015-16 for actions they may be asked to take.

Mr Sadiq said the policy would be a comprehensive document covering both traditional and non-traditional challenges to national security. It would also include a national security doctrine.

Besides framing the policy, Mr Sadiq said, the National Security Division - which serves as the secretariat to the National Security Committee - was working on reforms for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas; de-radicalisation and counter-radicalisation strategies; and plans for de-criminalising the border with Afghanistan.

“Eleven measures are being recommended for de-criminalising the Pak-Afghan border which would improve bilateral ties with Afghanistan,” he said.

The institute’s president Dr Zafar Iqbal Cheema said there was no immediate military threat to Pakistan. The country, he noted, possessed enough conventional and non-conventional capabilities to deal with any challenge.

The major challenge, he said, was socio-economic in nature and was very acute.

“It is more of a question of managing the economy, which has long been massively mismanaged,” he said.

Dr Cheema said the political leadership needed to put its act together for dealing with the dilemma facing the country.

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2014