Pakistan committed to rooting out ISIL

By Zahir Shah

An ISIL wall chalking is shown in Wah Cantonment, Punjab Province, June 26. [Zahir Shah]

An ISIL wall chalking is shown in Wah Cantonment, Punjab Province, June 26. [Zahir Shah]

PESHAWAR -- Pakistan is committed to rooting out all breeds of terrorism in its campaign for global peace, as evidenced by the recent crackdown on suspected "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) affiliates across the country, authorities and analysts say.

Recently, as a result of the National Action Plan (NAP) in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the settled areas, authorities have captured a variety of extremist suspects, accused of belonging to local groups, al-Qaeda and ISIL.

The government launched the counter-terrorism NAP shortly after the December 2014 terrorist massacre of more than 140 children and teachers at Army Public School in Peshawar.

Some of the suspects confessed to plotting to assassinate TV anchors, other journalists, and law enforcement officials, police said.

One suspect, Asim alias Osama, is accused of attacking the Ary TV station in Islamabad in January 2016. One man was injured in that episode. During interrogations, Asim identified others who, he said, were involved.

Police picked up the other suspects. They are accused of extorting Rs. 1.5m (US $15,000) from various individuals as well.

Police also reacted quickly to the recent wall chalking of a pro-ISIL slogan at a house in Wah Cantonment, Punjab Province, and launched an immediate search for the culprits.

Crackdown on ISIL

Pakistani authorities used to dismiss reports of an ISIL presence in their country.

That attitude dissolved after Aftab Sultan, director general of the Intelligence Bureau, told the Senate Standing Committee on Interior that hundreds of Pakistanis have gone to Syria to fight for ISIL.

ISIL is emerging as a threat because several militant groups, like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, sympathise with its ideas, he testified.

Terrorists in Pakistan are re-organising, Aftab said. He stressed the need for more border security, continued implementation of NAP and a de-radicalisation policy with an emphasis on countering the terrorist narrative.

"Pakistan’s resolve is very clear," Brig. (ret.) Mehmood Shah of Peshawar, former security secretary for FATA, said. "The recent arrests of ISIL-affiliated terrorists and the crackdowns on the terrorist networks in both urban and rural tribal areas are a clear manifestation that Pakistan will not tolerate any terrorists."

"They all need to be wiped out," he said.

"Terrorists wearing a cap or turban of any colour are enemies of the Pakistani state," he told Pakistan Forward. "Pakistani law enforcement is hunting them down."

It is essential to defeat all radical groups who sympathised with al-Qaeda in the past and who are now switching their loyalties to ISIL, A. Z. Hilali, chairman of the University of Peshawar political science department, said.

Pakistan has established its resolve to bar any more alien terrorist groups from spilling its citizens' blood, he told Pakistan Forward.

"The recent [crackdown] is a clear message to all foreign groups that Pakistan is no longer a safe haven for terrorists," he said.

"Law enforcement agencies will be on them until they're eliminated," he added.

A toxic symbiosis

"Many Pakistani radical groups sheltering ISIL have a symbiotic relationship with it as an international terror group," Syed Hussain Shaheed Soherwordi, head of the Cell for FATA Studies at the University of Peshawar, said.

"Pakistan has realised that ISIL is now a serious threat and its pro-active action against ISIL's interests show that we take the threat seriously," he told Pakistan Forward.

Mushtaq Khan, a Peshawar police official who has been fighting various terrorist groups for almost a decade, said he has seen ISIL's bloodshed with his own eyes.

"They have to be flushed out at the start, before they become monsters," he said.

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