Has the government taken any steps to counteract the threat of IS at these initial stages?
Transitioning from name to name, and varying objectives, Islamic state (IS) or Daish – formerly ISIS – is ostensible in its desire for dual aims; enforcing a Sunni sect hegemony and reintroducing the notion of caliphate in the Muslim world. This group which started its operations against the foreign incursion in Iraq, went on to demonstrate a much more introrse façade. Turning on the Shi’a of the Middle East, the organisation yearns to ‘purify’ Islam of all innovations that were introduced in the religion after the early days of Islam.
The group has been a headache for both the Shi’a and the moderate Sunnis, owing to its extremist ideology and an even graver conduct ensuring the implementation of its goals. Anyone who disagrees with the anti-west, pro-violence and heretical interpretation favoured by the group is declared a murtid (Apostate), and thus worthy of death. The ideology of the group is so fanatical that even al-Qaeda has disavowed any ties with it and its doctrine. Additionally, countries the world over including Indonesia, UK, USA and most notably Saudi Arabia – which is usually much more embracing of anti-Shi’a movements – have declared the Islamic state a foreign terrorist organisation.
Yet the mushrooming numbers of the members of Islamic state are matched only by its growing audacity. An organisation which was reported to have around 4,000 members in late May by Wall Street Journal, has grown to be an estimated 80,000 strong – as stated by Syrian observatory of human rights (SOHR) – a twenty fold increase in mere three months following the declaration of caliphate by the group in June. This, and the figures of more than 200,000 killings to its account, veritably vindicate the threat the group poses in the international sphere.
The group has been a headache for both the Shi’a and the moderate Sunnis, owing to its extremist ideology and an even graver conduct ensuring the implementation of its goals
It was in this backdrop that the group recently expanded its mission across the continent and spread recruitment material within Peshawar and the Afghan refugee camps. This was supplemented by pro-IS (transcribed as ‘Daulat-e-Islamia’, an Urdu translation of the word ‘Islamic State’) graffiti appearing across Afghan-Pakistan border regions, as well as in certain inner parts of Baluchistan. The diffusion of the outfit has further been made easier with at least three acclaimed militant groups within Afghanistan offering allegiance to the self-declared caliph, Abu-Bakr Al Baghdadi alias Caliph Ibrahim.
These elements foretell a story of most ominous times that may soon descend upon Pakistan. The country is no alien to sectarian conflict. Gilgit-Baltistan as well as the pilgrimage route to Iran are lined with graves of Shi’a who were taken off the buses, identified by their names and shot dead. Moreover, the plight of Hazara community which has started a mass exodus to European countries following a barrage of suicide bombing and constant denial of justice is incontrovertible.
Already sequestered, the isolation of the Shi’a, which make up the 15 per cent population of Pakistan, is growing incrementally. They are oppressed and they want justice. Even folks as well schooled in maintaining a diplomatic pretence about them as Faisal Raza Abidi have been found to come out against the continuous persecution of the community. The rhetoric is becoming vociferous by the day, and if not assuaged may soon assume deafening commotion.
Provided these, the introduction of IS, a group which outclasses the current Pakistani sectarian outfits in notoriety with a considerable margin, can only prove detrimental to the interests of the nation. The bloodied history, the malleable mind-set, the illiteracy and a misconception of the doctrines of faith make Pakistan a fecund soil for sectarian strife. Augmenting this with the factor that the Shi’a have segregated mosques as well as housing societies, they would make an easy target.
Tamil tigers consisted of only eleven per cent of Sri Lanka’s population, a mere 2.2 million, yet the war raged for quarter of a century
Notwithstanding global equations, the Shia within Pakistan have hitherto been helpless; and after helplessness comes frustration and thereby extremity. The sentiments are ebbing over. God forbid, if a conflict were to ensue, the worst civil wars in the history of mankind would be a yardstick in casualties.
Tamil tigers consisted of only eleven per cent of Sri Lanka’s population, a mere 2.2 million, yet the war raged for quarter of a century. What the sectarian strife involving parties ten times the demographic statistics are capable of, is best left unsaid.
In the tumultuous times that we live in, can we afford proliferation of agenda of another organisation, the spill over of whose can portend truly unfortunate chain of events? Has the government taken any steps to counteract the threat of IS at these initial stages? Or are we calmly perched, waiting for things to take a more tangible form before we act? It is time we nip the evil while we still can. Wishing one had worn a lifejacket after he is already drowning is an exercise in futility. A little later may prove too late.