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Security

Iran's Zainabiyoun Brigade steps up recruiting in Pakistan

The Iranian IRGC has recruited more than 1,600 Pakistani Shia youth in the past six months for its Zainabiyoun Brigade to fight on behalf of Iranian interests in Syria.

By Abdul Ghani Kakar


An image that Iran used in the propaganda film called "Lovers Stand Dying" to recruit Pakistanis into the Zainabiyoun Brigade. [File]

An image that Iran used in the propaganda film called "Lovers Stand Dying" to recruit Pakistanis into the Zainabiyoun Brigade. [File]

QUETTA -- Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is continuing to recruit Pakistani Shia to fight as mercenaries for Iranian military interests in Syria, according to Pakistani intelligence officials.

The IRGC's Zainabiyoun Brigade has recruited more than 1,600 new fighters [comprising predominantly Shia mercenaries] from Pakistan over the past six months, an Islamabad-based senior intelligence official told Pakistan Forward on the condition of anonymity.

"In a recent report filed before Pakistan's security establishment, senior counter-insurgency officials revealed that the actual number of fighters recruited inside Pakistan in the past six months by the Zainabiyoun Brigade could be much higher than the available statistics," the official said.

"The report indicated that most of the newly recruited fighters of the Zainabiyoun Brigade were transported to Iran via little-used and illegal routes from Pakistan," he said. "Meanwhile, a large number of fighters also went to Iran under the cover of pilgrimage."

About 4,000 Shia pilgrims from Pakistan entered Iran between November 2016 and June 2017 and never returned, according to a September 2017 Pakistani intelligence report.

Plan of action

The latest report submitted to the federal government advised that Pakistan needs an immediate action plan to counter the Zainabiyoun Brigade's militancy and anti-peace activities, the official said.

"We have concrete evidence that Iran is boosting its influence via its proxies, but rest assured it will never succeed in its nefarious designs," he said.

"Iran has named Pakistani fighters of the Zainabiyoun Brigade as guardians of holy shrines in Syria, and they are largely engaged in [battles] in those areas of Syria where the IRGC is backing [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad's army in the war," he said.

"We have a large Shia population in Pakistan, and it is our deep concern that Iran is using all its resources to gain influence here among the Shia community," Javed Nasir, a senior security official in Rawalpindi, told Pakistan Forward. "A large number of Shia scholars who graduated from Iranian [seminaries] are already working for this odious Iranian agenda in Pakistan."

"The IRGC-linked Zainabiyoun Brigade is not only involved in recruitment for Iran but is conspiring too to export the violent Iranian revolution from Tehran into Pakistan," Nasir said.

"Pakistan is not only taking other steps to foil Iranian designs in Pakistan," he said. "Our security agencies are closely watching those Iranian cultural centres that are operating in nearly all major Pakistani cities."

Cracking down on Iranian recruiters

During the past three months, Pakistani security agencies have arrested at least 15 suspects in various raids for their alleged links with the Zainabiyoun Brigade in Quetta and in Taftan, a border city in Balochistan, said Amir Mussa, a Defence Ministry official based in Quetta.

"All efforts are made to foil foreign influence in our region, and strict surveillance is under way in all bordering areas of Balochistan, especially those linked with the border of Iran and Afghanistan," he told Pakistan Forward.

"Security agencies are closely working to counter the Zainabiyoun Brigade in the country, and several key recruitment centres ... have also been eliminated in the past couple of years," he said.

"We have reports that some Zainabiyoun operatives are operating under the cover of religious scholars and have previously worked with some key Pakistani Shia scholars who graduated from seminaries in Qom Province, Iran," Mussa said.

"Zainabiyoun Brigade suspects are mainly recruiting fighters from Parachinar, Kurram tribal district, Quetta, Sialkot, Peshawar and some other parts of the country," he said.

"The suspects who are under interrogation have revealed vital information about the network of the Zainabiyoun Brigade," he said. "Based on some of that information, security agencies are taking further action to counter the anti-state activities of the stated group."

Human trafficking and death threats

"As an Iranian proxy militia, the Zainabiyoun Brigade has employed various channels for recruitment of fighters in Pakistan. Because of strict surveillance [by Pakistan], the Zainabiyoun recruiters are posing as agents involved in human trafficking," a Quetta-based senior security official who is posted at an anti-human trafficking desk told Pakistan Forward on the condition of anonymity.

Because of high unemployment in Pakistan, the jobless are vulnerable to human traffickers, he said, adding that Zainabiyoun Brigade recruiters are capitalising on this situation.

"We have reports that the Zainabiyoun Brigade moved a large number of Shia residents of Quetta, Punjab, Sindh and other areas to Iran via illegal routes," he said. "In Iran, the IRGC took them into custody."

"During interrogations, we have come to learn that the IRGC has made special detention cells for Pakistani Shia immigrants in Tehran and some other parts of the country, where Zainabiyoun Brigade scholars are engaged in brainwashing those immigrants into joining Zainabiyoun as protectors of holy shrines in Syria," he explained.

The IRGC has threatened these Pakistani Shia prisoners in Iran with capital punishment during the brainwashing process and were told they could avoid it by joining the Zainabiyoun Brigade, the official said.

"Because of fear of execution, many of these Shia prisoners have become part of the Zainabiyoun," he said.

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Comment bubble | 10-18-2018

Pakistan should be secured from Iran’s evil. Shias are our Muslim brethren but Iran has always been against Pakistan and would always remain that way.

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Comment bubble | 10-18-2018

I am in favor of this posit if it is based on reality and I demand from the current government to arrange return of the pilgrims traveling from Pakistan by end of the term of their visa. \nAnd if this post is just a disagreement, I don’t give it any importance. \n

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Comment bubble | 10-17-2018

Thats a lie

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Comment bubble | 10-17-2018

This obvious lie has been written in order to make hurdles in the path of pilgrims of Karbala … the writer doesn’t seem to have even known that the leader of the pilgrims getting visa also submits a type of oath that they will submit exit of their passport along with the copy .. if anyone doesn’t submit, an FIR is registered against him and he is also blacklisted … there hasn’t been any FIR against any of the leaders and no one has been blacklisted, then how will anyone go? While visa is not marked without group … ? have faith in Allah… never cross limits in biasness and anyone’s enmity…. Allah is watching. \n

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Comment bubble | 10-16-2018

Nonsense

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Comment bubble | 10-15-2018

Biaseness is evident from the writing, if you are concerned about Pakistan, then write about everyone; you don’t see what is happening in Bahrain and Yemen, you don’t see what Saudis are doing \n

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Comment bubble | 10-15-2018

Pakistan also has to bear the hard time that Syria is bearing, so we have to pre-defend our country as Maula Ali A.S said* \nThe coming time will be more precarious than the passing, so prepare for war in days of peace \nMay Allah fix the conditions of our country, everyone knows that anything can happen in this country; how could we be safe if our troops are not safe. Dear! for God sake stop barbarism with the Shias living in Pakistan because you will have to knock no door but our; you may refer to history if you don’t believe. \n \nMay Allah keep this country, Pakistan safe. \nRegards God’s servant \n

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Comment bubble | 10-15-2018

This is all nonsense Jihad against terrorist is an order from Allah and his messenger, which is an obligation at every Muslim. Its not necessary that Jihad must be performed on Iran’s instructions. And no Muslim has to perform Jihad secretly it’s a religious and legal obligation at every Muslim. \n

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Comment bubble | 10-15-2018

This is nothing but an obvious lie. Don’t they witness banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in Pakistan. There should have been some honor, some esteem, which you don’t have. \n

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Reply comment | 10-15-2018

Good reply

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Comment bubble | 10-15-2018

Iran is really supporting Bashar ul Asad and not the oppressed public… \n

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Comment bubble | 10-14-2018

Don’t give that infidel anything who puts an evil eye at Pakistan \n

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Comment bubble | 10-14-2018

It’s a duty of every Muslim to protect holy places and it’s a lie that Haram is under threat from Houthi insurgents, but shrines are definitely in danger from ISIL \n

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Comment bubble | 10-12-2018

Anti Iran and Anti Shia propaganda. If Saudi Arabia sends troops to kill Houthi insurgents, it’s legitimate and if Iran sends troops to confront ISIL, it’s terrorism “Hats off to your pen” is it fear from Iran or buttering for Saudi Arabia? God knows \n

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Comment bubble | 10-11-2018

Totally baised not tru

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Comment bubble | 10-11-2018

You have published a very comprehensive report. Certainly, Pakistan is already faced with danger due to such like groups and we fear that they can deteriorate internal situation in future. It is mandatory that every sort of militant be eliminated.

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Comment bubble | 10-11-2018

Misleading

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Comment bubble | 10-10-2018

Does ISI in Pakistan doesn’t know what is happening to our poor people. If they know it, an action should be taken in this regard. \n

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Comment bubble | 10-10-2018

Government of Pakistan has gone blind due to Saudi Rials. After voting against human rights in Yemen, now Shia community and pilgrims are being targeted. \n

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Comment bubble | 10-09-2018

Hahahahahahha

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Comment bubble | 10-08-2018

Sunnis are killing muslims in Iran, Syria and Iraq, but Iran will also not stay in peace. \n

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Comment bubble | 10-08-2018

That is all lie; if any of our sacred places gets damaged there, not a single Shia would be left in Pakistan; everyone is ready to give life at Fatwa of our leader. It is because we have not yet heard any good news at this page, every time there are lies and self-generated talks are written here. Everyone would consider going there, fighting and getting martyred blissfulness for him. \n

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Comment bubble | 10-07-2018

Hang anyone who looks at Pakistan with bad intention. \n

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Comment bubble | 10-07-2018

A marvelous article. Iran and Saudi Arabia are at front in ruining Pakistan’s peace. \n

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Reply comment | 10-07-2018

Iran s activities must ban in pakistan \n

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Comment bubble | 10-07-2018

This is completely false propaganda. \n

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Comment bubble | 10-05-2018

Its all fake. \nU wahabis forgot what u did in 80's in Afganistan against Russia...so called Jihad \nIts a slap on ur face

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Reply comment | 10-15-2018

It is absolutely right. Iran will remain the enemy of Muslim community.

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