Pakistan counters ISIL's strategy of buying militant loyalty

By Javed Mahmood

Pakistani Rangers November 13 guard the shrine of Sufi saint Shah Noorani, 750km south of Quetta, one day after a suicide bombing. ISIL claimed responsibility for the attack, which took at least 52 lives. [ASIF HASSAN/AFP]

Pakistani Rangers November 13 guard the shrine of Sufi saint Shah Noorani, 750km south of Quetta, one day after a suicide bombing. ISIL claimed responsibility for the attack, which took at least 52 lives. [ASIF HASSAN/AFP]

ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan is foiling attempts by the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) to fund key terrorist leaders and elements aiming to promote extremism and militancy in the country, security analysts tell Pakistan Forward.

"ISIL is offering millions of rupees to key leaders of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other militant groups in the country in an attempt to develop its foothold in the region and carry out its agenda of bloodshed", a senior security official told Pakistan Forward.

ISIL leaders in Afghanistan are approaching leaders of banned Pakistani militant outfits and are offering them large amounts of money as a way to gain their support, the official said on condition of anonymity.

Knowing this, security organisations have further tightened the noose around banned militant outfits and enhanced their vigilance to thwart ISIL's ambition of penetrating Pakistan, he said.

"Security agencies have arrested dozens of ISIL-affiliated militants in Pakistan this year who have confessed to interrogators about ISIL's strategy of offering funding to militants in Pakistan to lure them into ISIL's ... global terrorist network", he said.

All security organisations and intelligence agencies are co-ordinating with each other and sharing information to ensure that ISIL does not succeed in establishing a network in Pakistan, he said.

Pakistan must choke off ISIL

"We have heard about offers of financing by ISIL to militant groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan, including TTP," Peshawar-based senior security analyst Brig. (ret.) Mehmood Shah told Pakistan Forward.

Uzbek militants and some TTP leaders based in Afghanistan have already announced allegiance to ISIL in exchange for money as they faced financial problems after the Pakistani army's Operation Zarb-e-Azb and targeted operations in Karachi and other parts of the country, Shah said. The army launched Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan in June 2014. The offensive continues today.

ISIL has failed so far to establish a presence in Pakistan because of security and intelligence agencies' vigilance and because of military offensives that have wiped out militant strongholds, infrastructure and networks, Shah said.

"ISIL can find like-minded militants in Pakistan to build its manpower and network to enforce its agenda," said Imtiaz Gul, executive director of the Islamabad-based think tank Centre for Research and Security Studies.

"Militant groups have broken apart in Pakistan and Afghanistan after operations against them, and they must be looking for new avenues of financial support from wherever they can get it," Gul told Pakistan Forward.

Pakistani security forces must step up their work to thwart ISIL recruitment in Pakistan, he said, urging the security forces to choke off the possibility of ISIL funding local militants, as the forces had done to other banned militant groups like the Taliban.

Pakistan nabs most wanted terrorists

Pakistan's Intelligence Bureau (IB) has arrested 865 most wanted militants and killed 171 in various operations during the past three years, IB Director General Aftab Sultan told the Senate Standing Committee on Security on October 19.

The IB is planning to expand its manpower and network in Pakistan to combat terrorism, he said.

In February, Sultan told the Senate Standing Committee on Interior that hundreds of Pakistanis were leaving the country for Syria to join ISIL. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan have sympathies for ISIL and they could join the global terror outfit, he added at the time.

The IB was working with all security entities, intelligence agencies and police in all provinces to combat local and global terrorism, Sultan assured the committee.

The IB is Pakistan's civilian intelligence agency. The army-led intelligence agencies are Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence (MI).

High cost of violent extremism

"Security officials should pace up the crackdown on the leaders and elements of the banned militant outfits, especially Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan and other groups that have a soft spot for ISIL," Mubasher Mir, security analyst and resident editor of Daily Pakistan in Karachi, told Pakistan Forward.

Mir had several suggestions for security forces.

They can arrest mercenary militants in Pakistan and should launch a nation-wide campaign to round up all militants who have allegiance to or sympathies for ISIL, Mir said.

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and commercial banks should suspend the bank accounts of individuals associated with militant entities, Mir said.

In late October, the SBP froze the bank accounts of more than 4,000 suspects named in the Fourth Schedule of the Anti-Terrorism Act (1997), he said. The list came from the National Counter-Terrorism Authority.

The accounts have a net value of about Rs. 350m (US $3.3m), according to news reports.

Violent extremism cost Pakistan US $118.3 billion (Rs. 12.4 trillion) in direct and indirect losses from 2002 to 2016, the SBP said in its annual report released November 17.

"Both economic growth and social sector development have been severely hampered by terrorism related incidents," the bank said in the report.

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