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‘650 Pakistanis fighting in conflict zones abroad’

Updated Aug 03, 2016 10:31am


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RAWALPINDI: As many as 650 Pakistanis are said to be fighting in the conflict zones of Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan and Central Asian states along with different foreign organisations.

Intelligence agencies have so far identified 132 of them and expressed the fear that their return after being defeated by international forces might add to sectarian strife in Pakistan.

After receiving the information, the National Crisis Management Cell (NCMC) of the federal government has alerted law enforcement agencies to take preventive measures besides tightening security on the borders of the country, especially in Balochistan, KP and the coastal areas, as well as airports.

A senior security official told Dawn that the defeat of fighters in Middle East, Afghanistan and Central Asian states had put Pakistan on the verge of sectarian violence, forcing the NCMC to advise the interior ministry to take measures to stop them from making a comeback.

“The NCMC directed the intelligence and law enforcement agencies to also keep surveillance on families of the individuals who had traveled to conflict zones and might create multiple security risks for Pakistan on their return,” he said.

“Intelligence agencies in coordination with law enforcement agencies should keep effective surveillance on families of the individuals who have traveled to the conflict zones and are expected to return,” he added.

Officials say return of these fighters may lead to rise in sectarian violence in Pakistan

A source in the law enforcement agencies told Dawn that the foreign fighters who suffered heavy losses in Afghanistan, Middle East and Central Asian region would take refuge in Pakistan.

“Fighters of other nationalities, especially those belonging to the Central Asian states, might find Afghanistan as a safe haven. But our own nationals who are fighting in Syria and Iraq would prefer moving back to Pakistan.”

He added: “The return of foreign terrorists to our region has the potential of creating multiple security risks for Pakistan. Their increased strength in Afghanistan would also lead to a new wave of instability in our immediate neighbourhood with the potential of spillover effects into Fata.”

The source said the return of the radicalised, trained and experienced fighters to the mainland carried the potential of sectarian violence in the country which was already facing such issues.

In line with the intelligence reports, the NCMC has suggested a proactive approach by the government agencies to check the entry of such elements into the country.

The NCMC had issued a similar alert in January this year, asking the police chiefs of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the commandant of the Frontier Constabulary to improve checking at the inter-provincial checkposts as a huge catches of arms were being smuggled to different parts of Punjab.

According to security sources, the NCMC had asked the authorities to improve checking of suspicious vehicles at the inter-provincial checkposts after it was noticed that gunrunners had been delivering weapons in different parts of Punjab on a regular basis.

This came into the knowledge of the authorities concerned after the Punjab police and intelligence agencies arrested two weapon smugglers and recovered a huge cache of arms and ammunition during a crackdown at Defence Road in Lahore.

When asked why the security forces were worried about the return of the fighters, a senior official requesting not to be named said intelligence agencies had come up with a report about the foreign fighters’ plan to return to the country. He said the fighters were gathering in Afghanistan and planning to take refuge on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“And to stop them from entering the country from the Afghan or Iran border, an advisory has been issued to the ministry of interior and the law enforcement agencies to take measures before any untoward incident,” he said.

Amir Rana, the director of Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies (PIPS), told Dawn that the vigilance level had been increased since the terrorist attacks in Germany in which a Syrian was allegedly involved. And it forced the other countries to increase the security and vigilance level.

“Though sectarian violence in Pakistan has decreased in the last few years, the expected return of the foreign fighters would increase the fear that the scourge may raise its head again. Therefore, the government is taking preventive measures,” said Mr Rana.

He said actually more than 700 Pakistani were involved with different foreign fighting organisations across the globe and they were now planning to come back due to the increase vigilance in the conflict zones of the world.

Published in Dawn, August 3rd, 2016


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Comments (25) Closed

Gohar Aug 03, 2016 10:36am

We should should step up efforts to identify them and arrest them if they think of returning. Also, as GN seems to think, maybe they can be diverted to our eastern neighbouring country who seem to delight in their presence!

Ahmed bin Babar Aug 03, 2016 11:01am

If you know the figure 650 of these illegal combatants then you can initiate an enquiry, bring them back home and put them on trial

naveed Aug 03, 2016 11:06am

Dawn is doing a great job by printing news. thumbs up to dawn

prafulla Aug 03, 2016 11:07am

My god they will be threat to Pakistan in future if not controlled.

Mehak Gulab Aug 03, 2016 11:16am

Rather than integrating them into society disassociating them would not help either. Years of neglecting the underprivileged & uneducated human capital can only can be a catalyst increasing burden to other nations, giving bad name to Pakistan as well. If Pakistan bold enough to admit its shortcomings & come out of denial mode; probably international community would extend help... Otherwise things will get worse...

Parachinari Aug 03, 2016 11:23am

Don't allow them back! Those who are allowed must be monitored. We don't need battle hardened people here.

Khan-haqiqi Aug 03, 2016 11:29am

Which provinces they belong to?

Usman Aug 03, 2016 11:56am

Great Initiative, we should take all measures to save our Country and People living in it. I hope we will not loose our stance on these preventive measures.

Thanks to all who are involved in it and working hard to prevent our soil to get infected. Thanks

Akram Aug 03, 2016 12:24pm

Must be more than 650.

Sherali Aug 03, 2016 12:37pm

The Pakistanis fighting in foreign fighting zones should be brought back and stationed at our own borders and to secure our own country from within

KVZ Aug 03, 2016 12:44pm

@Akram The number is 650 as we dont speak arabic language and all the conflict zones in middle east are arabic.

HARIS Aug 03, 2016 12:46pm

@Parachinari : thinking that they would not hurt us if kept them at bay is as foolish as cutting-off your limb that gives you pain. A better way to deal with them is by allowing them to come back but keeping them under strict surveillance. Undoubtedly their acts are unjustified but if our agencies manage to work in close with them perhaps help us to eradicate terrorism.

SAEED MASOOD Aug 03, 2016 01:00pm

This is a hard fact and we will have to face it...if all the Pakistan Nation unites against terrorism and don't care about the sects this problem will be solved

naji Aug 03, 2016 01:01pm

Our young people were trained by big power to fight with Russia in 1980-90 to liberate Afghanistan, now that young generation is old in 2016. Their young generation can presume that what their elders did were absolutely right. Now "this" generation is on the same mission. What is surprising? Nothing. According to international news sources, these fighters are from every advance and middle level countries.

Naved Aug 03, 2016 01:21pm

This matter should be treated on top priority basis. Failure is not an option.

Asif Ahmed Aug 03, 2016 01:24pm

When you know who they are then simply apprehend them when they are back. Why such a lethargic attitude? You are not at the mercy of these handful fanatics. And then they are just 650!!!!

Raja Aug 03, 2016 01:52pm

@Gohar: It is being done since two decades.

Salaam Namaste Aug 03, 2016 02:06pm

Which government disown their own people? If they are threat to country, monitor them and try to bring themm into mainstream

Sherali Aug 03, 2016 02:16pm

@prafulla That is what called What you Give to Others - You Get Back In Return. If we terrorising other countries, in no times it will bounce back upon us and will hound us that we can't conceive its force and power

Gary Aug 03, 2016 02:21pm

This is tip of the iceberg. I think that the real number is far greater.

Mady Aug 03, 2016 02:28pm

This is an achievement of Pak foreign-policy of sharing indigenous know-how with the outside world.

Fawzia H Aug 03, 2016 03:32pm

They should not be allowed back into Pakistani society. Better still let them remain where they are, in exile

Iftikhar Husain Aug 03, 2016 05:00pm

It is time to train the border forces to tackle these unwanted visitors.

Gerry D'Cunha Aug 03, 2016 11:19pm

They should be banned from entering Pakistan

Mudassar Aug 04, 2016 05:53pm

This is natural given the fertile environment that exists for radicalization and training.