Pakistan has zero tolerance for ISIL

By Amna Nasir Jamal

Rangers in Karachi August 28 are shown with arms and ammunition that they confiscated from militants. [Amna Nasir Jamal]

Rangers in Karachi August 28 are shown with arms and ammunition that they confiscated from militants. [Amna Nasir Jamal]

ISLAMABAD -- The "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) is finding no space to grow in Pakistan, Pakistani security officials and analysts agree.

"Pakistan has no acceptance for ISIL militants," said army spokesman Lt. Gen. Asim Saleem Bajwa.

Hostility toward ISIL

"People are fed up with terrorism," he told Pakistan Forward. "There is no organised presence of [ISIL] in Pakistan, and they will be defeated if there is any visible action from the group."

"We are committed to combat militancy and militants," he said.

Any effort by ISIL to bring its fighters to Pakistan will face intense resistance, said Muhammad Amir Rana, a security analyst and director of the Islamabad-based Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS).

"Unlike in Syria and Iraq, ISIL may find it hard to motivate foreigners to fight in Pakistan," he told Pakistan Forward. "Many foreign militants have left Pakistan to escape the recent military onslaught [starting in June 2014] or to contribute in the Middle East battles."

"ISIL has not been able to find charismatic leadership in South Asia to lure fresh recruits," he said. "In the absence of experienced leadership, ISIL in Pakistan might not be able to take off and establish its rule over territory, as it did in the Middle East."

Although ISIL's wars in Iraq, Syria and Libya inspired some young men and women in Pakistan to join ISIL in the Middle East, most of the militants fighting security forces in Pakistan and Afghanistan are not connected to ISIL.

Rejection by the TTP

Even Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)-affiliated groups are shunning ISIL.

"Our movement has no organisational link with [ISIL] and al-Qaeda," Jamatul Ahrar leader Umar Khalid Khorasani said in an audio statement in which his group took responsibility for an August 9 suicide bombing targeting lawyers and journalists at a Quetta hospital. The bombing took about 70 lives.

Two sectarian militant groups in Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba, have associations with ISIL in that they reportedly recruited people in Pakistan and sent them to fight in Syria, according to Aftab Sultan, director-general of the Intelligence Bureau.

"The first signs of ISIL outreach into the Afghanistan-Pakistan region materialised as early as 2014," he told Pakistan Forward.

"They recruited fighters by utilising social media, Skype and cyberspace and also had communication [online] with suspected militants," he said.

Nonetheless, security analysts see scant evidence of ISIL's gaining a foothold in Pakistan.

"There isn't a visible threat from ISIL to Pakistan," said Ayesha Siddiqa, a defence analyst and military scientist from Islamabad.

ISIL has been trying to expand in Afghanistan and Pakistan as its territory shrinks in Syria and Iraq, but it faces ideological differences and competition from local militants, she said.

"Some TTP commanders kept a distance from ISIL," she said, adding that not all TTP leaders are hostile to ISIL. "[Others] consider Pakistan a part of what [ISIL] calls Wilayat Khorasan, a broad region that includes Afghanistan and parts of Central Asia."

"ISIL mainly attracts disheartened members of the Taliban movements," she told Pakistan Forward. In addition, it preys on vulnerable youth "in Afghanistan because of widespread poverty and unemployment".

But in Pakistan, ISIL is "not having much success so far since there are sectarian differences among all the militant groups", she said.

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long live Pakistan army