Has ISIS become operational in Pakistan?
DAESH or so-called Islamic State has claimed responsibility of deadly Quetta blast in which more than 70 people have been killed on August 9. It also claimed responsibility of another attack in same city two days later on security convoy of a judge. The claims were made by ISIS’s official news agency Aamaq in Arabic, English and some other languages. It was first ever official claim by DAESH in Pakistan. If the claims are true than that is a clear signal that the group has become operational in Pakistan as well. Although the area of Balochistan lies within proclaimed
‘Khorasan’ territory and the Khorasan chapter of the ISIS is well organized and operational but its focus had remained within Afghanistan and that too especially in Nangarhar and Kuner provinces where the group still holds control of at least five districts, but it was never seen previously that the group carried out any organized attack on Pakistani territory. Interestingly the area of Pakistan which lies outside Khorasan is included ISIS’s ‘Hind’ (Hindustan or India) chapter which includes all the South Asian countries. It is also interesting to note that first presence of ISIS in Pakistan was also detected in remote areas of Balochistan where wall chalking in favor of the group was found.
If the claims of DAESH to carry out attacks in Quetta are true then it has emerged as a serious challenge for Pakistan. PICSS Militancy Database shows that the last high profile attack in the country was carried out ……months ago in …… and overall security situation was much improved. However, the attack in Quetta drew sever criticism on security forces and the top leadership of the country has once again reiterated to focus full implementation of NAP. Emergence of DAESH as potent operational organization on Pakistani soil will need additional preparedness, vigilance and comprehensive strategy to fight the resource enriched group.
Having said this, PICSS still doubt the credibility of the claim made by DAESH for few reasons. Jamat-ul-Ahrar has also claimed responsibility of both the attacks which is a well-organized and operational group in the country totally focused on operations in Pakistan. Text analysis of the statement by DAESH shows that it knows very little about Pakistan. The claim made by Aamaq says that it targeted officials from ‘Ministry of Justice’ while there is no ‘Ministry of Justice’ in Pakistan. The exact name is ‘Ministry of Law and Justice’. Also the attack was not against any ministry but against lawyer fraternity. PICSS still doubts that the group has become properly operational on Pakistani soil but nothing can be ruled out as efforts are underway to reverse the gains of Operation Zarb-e-Azb.
ISIS losing in Afghanistan Last month a U.S drone strike killed Hafiz Saeed Khan, the head of Islamic State’s Khursan chapter.
It was a big blow to the group. The group still could not announce any replacement of Hafiz Saeed
Khan. Hafiz Saeed Khan was a former TTP commander who had pledged allegiance with ISIS and
was appointed as head of Khurasan chapter of the group. Like Hafiz Saeed Khan, most of the
fighters in the group belonged previously with TTP. The group lost another major commander
Saad Emarati who was one of the founders of the group in the region in a military operation by Afghan forces in Nangarhar province. The group lost about more than 700 of its fighters during last two months in its fighting with Afghan forces as well as in U.S. drone strikes and air raids.
Most of the territory under its control has been taken back by the Afghan forces and the group is now confined into rugged mountains along Pakistan-Afghan border. Many fighters have defected back to Taliban. The losses of territory of ISIS in Afghanistan coincide with its losses in Syria and Iraq.
The group initially started Iraq style operations in Kuner and Nangarhar where it captured
territories and established its strict rule. However, now the group is forced to change tactics, and is resorting upon carrying out usual militant attacks. The attack on Shia Hazara in Kabul and claim of attack in Quetta are manifestation of the change in its tactics.
The group created too much enemies in the region like it did in Syria and Iraq. However, there are some reports emerging that the group is trying to mend its relations with Taliban and want to put joint fighting against U.S. and Afghan forces. Especially, United States claims that Taliban and ISIS are joining hands in eastern Afghanistan. Although the possibility of Taliban-ISIS collaboration is remote, nothing can be ruled out in the war theater. This can be a move by Taliban to lure the remaining ISIS fighters to join back their ranks. Strategically, Taliban would not ally with any group with international linkages as they are trying hard to present themselves as a legitimate nationalistic resistance. They have distanced themselves from Al-Qaeda and other groups such as IMU and ETIM.
Although much of the focus of analysts is on ISIS’s presence in Nagarhar province, one must not ignore the fact that Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) had also merged into ISIS last year and the group is has transregional operational network. It was involved in high profile attacks in Pakistan and ambitions to establish Islamic government in Uzbekistan and other Central Asian countries.
More Defections in ISIS An influential cleric who served as the mufti, or top religious figure, for the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and who defected to the Islamic State’s Khorasan province has denounced his new group and apologized for remaining silent on its misdeeds in the region. The defection is the latest blow to a weakening Islamic State, which is losing ground in Iraq, Syria, and Libya, and is struggling to maintain a foothold in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Abu Dher al Barmi, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) mufti who is also known as Abu Dher Azzam, disavowed the Islamic State in an Uzbek-language file uploaded onto YouTube by “a media group opposed to the Islamic State,”. An influential jihadist who served as the mufti, or top religious figure, for the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and who defected to the Islamic State’s Khorasan province has denounced his new group and apologized for remaining silent on its misdeeds in the region. The defection is the latest blow to a weakening Islamic State, which is losing ground in Iraq, Syria, and Libya, and is struggling to maintain a foothold in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Abu Dher al Barmi, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) mufti who is also known as Abu Dher Azzam, disavowed the Islamic State in an Uzbek-language file uploaded onto YouTube by “a media group opposed to the Islamic State,” according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which translated the audio. Al Barmi had previously been featured in IMU propaganda. Al Barmi said that he joined the Islamic State in 2014 as he was “among those who were influenced” after Abu Bakr al Baghdadi declared the establishment of the caliphate. However, he quickly soured on the Islamic State.
“But after a year, I learned of many evil deeds within this group, such their killing the Muslims on charges that lack evidence, and their issuing of fatwas against those who did not join their group,” Al Barmi stated. “After their fatwa was issued in Khorasan in which they infidel-branded the Taliban, who have waged jihad for nearly 40 years against the Russians, the Americans, and their agents, it pained my heart!”
After denouncing the Islamic State, al Barmi apologized for remaining silent.
“My first mistake was endorsing them, and the second mistake was delaying in informing th Ummah about the truth!” he said. He also appealed to “our brothers who came from CentralAsia” to reject the Islamic State and to not use his previous declaration of support as a “pretense” to remain with the group.
“Do not to take my past words as a pretense, and do not make me a reason for your going to the State group! Do not make me a reason for your saying that this Caliphate is a true
Caliphate!,” al Barmi pleaded.
The “brothers who came from Central Asia” that al Barmi are referring to are likely members of the IMU that defected to the Islamic State. A segment of the IMU followed its last emir, Usman Ghazi, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in August 2015.
Al Barmi also encouraged the “brothers” to join one of the “many groups who are following the truth and the correct method” and “do jihad with it.” He is likely referring to the Taliban, alQaeda, the Turkistan Islamic Party, and the recently reestablished Islamic Movement of