Quetta blast and re-emergence of Daesh in Pakistan
Pakistan security establishment has always maintained that Daesh poses a fairly significant threat, as is evident from a recent series of attacks in Balochistan. The militants have cleverly leveraged their position by joining forces with Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA). This is despite the fact that the two are politically and ideologically on different wavelengths. Both groups are reported to be financially and politically supported by the Indian government. Taking advantage of Pakistan’s vulnerabilities in Balochistan – its thinly populated vast terrain, underdeveloped and a history of neglect by successive governments – Daesh is engaging in acts of terror in collusion with disaffected groups to enhance its importance.
The province of Balochistan, and especially its port of Gwadar, has acquired great economic and strategic importance being central to the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor (CPEC). India and countries opposed to CPEC are known to be supportive and in collusion with Daesh, assisting the militants with intelligence and funding to disrupt the project.
According to reliable sources, the Daesh in Pakistan is led by a former Karachi police constable, Daud Mehsud, who until recently was operating in Afghanistan. He was initially associated with Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, when Hakimullah Mehsud and later Fazalullah were its leaders. He later joined Daesh and had to leave for Afghanistan when the Pakistan military undertook major operations against militant organizations. It is believed Daud Mehsud was chosen to lead the group for being a hardliner and for his familiarity with Pakistan’s vulnerabilities. He is expected to leverage his position by exploiting his past connections in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Daud Mehsud could also draw into Daesh several leaders and members of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and small terrorist organizations. Several anti-Shia groups have already pledged loyalty to them.
The ideology of Daesh is so perverted that they fail to comprehend the severe damage they are inflicting on the unity of the Muslim community and its standing in the comity of nations.
According to security officials, Daesh main bases are located in the province's regions of Mastung, Khuzdar, Kalat, Lasbela, and Quetta. Their presence has also been reported close to Bolan Pass and other parts of Balochistan. For greater publicity, they have been lately focusing on Quetta, the provincial capital. This situation poses a major challenge to the security of Balochistan in the coming months and beyond. Being the largest province and bordering Afghanistan and Iran and possessing strategically important copper, zinc and natural gas reserves, Balochistan has been facing violence and militancy from within fueled by India and other hostile forces.
The ideology of Daesh is so perverted that they fail to comprehend the severe damage they are inflicting on the unity of the Muslim community and its standing in the comity of nations. Pakistan security forces have been targeting Daesh and have launched several successful operations against them. Recently, in one of these encounters as many as 15 of Daesh militants were killed and more than 20 seriously wounded.
Daesh Pakistan takes its major policy directions from the central leadership in Syria, but for routine matters operates as an independent entity.
Credible international think tanks are of the view that although the primary focus of the top leadership of Daesh is to regain their foothold in Syria and Iraq, currently they are seeing opportunities of expanding the scope of activities in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. Recruitment of volunteers for Daesh in South Asia has been ongoing for the past three years and has significantly increased last year. Many people have been arrested in major cities of Pakistan for facilitating the process.
Members are recruited as freedom fighters or jihadis, and later can rise in rank and influence within the group's hierarchical structure. Money too has been a major incentive for young people to join Daesh. Their salaries start from Rs40,000 – a reasonable amount in a country where finding a job is difficult. Women too have been recruited as wives, jihadis or volunteers.
The frequent terrorist attacks of Daesh in Balochistan are an indication that they want to be an expanding and domineering militant organization in the province. Moreover, there is a big demand for Daesh fighters in Yemen to fight against Iran-backed forces, which has also given a fillip to Daesh to recruit unemployed youth from Pakistan and other regional countries.
Weak economic conditions, political unrest, and hostile neighbors are ideal conditions that favor Daesh. The civil war in Afghanistan, Indian hostilities on the eastern borders and a disgruntled Baloch population in Iran and Pakistan are breeding grounds for militant and anti-state forces.
In contrast, if there were better cooperation between neighbors and a modicum of good governance and stability, it would be difficult for Daesh to survive.
As of now, this would be a false expectation, nonetheless efforts to seek cooperation where possible should continue. More importantly, Pakistan should continue to improve its internal security and intelligence services, bring about economic reforms and give a greater sense of participation to people of Balochistan and erstwhile tribal regions of northwest Pakistan.
– Talat Masood is a retired Lieutenant General from Pakistan Army and an eminent scholar on national security and political issues.
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