Daesh presence in Afghanistan, a threat to Pakistan's security
Unlike in the case of the Taliban, recruits of the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), the Daesh branch active in South and Central Asia, are not strictly ideological-driven or deriving from a specific area. While the Taliban sought to drive the US out of Afghanistan, ISKP seems to be having a much broader plan in the region.
The ISKP recruits educated youth. On June 1, the United States Institute of Peace listed three main universities from which they are enrolled: Kabul University, Al-Biruni University in Kohistan, Kapisa province, and Nangarhar University in Jalalabad.
According to a United Nations report from last week, ISKP activity in the Indian subcontinent is on the rise, with major-scale operations conceived in the Indian states of Kerala and Karnataka, which the group calls its "Wilayah Al-Hind." The Daesh threat has been growing at a fast pace in the region, the report suggests, since a deadly attack on a Sikh temple in Kabul in March, and on the maternity ward of the Dasht-e-Barchi hospital, also in the Afghan capital.
As the perpetrator of the temple attack was Aslam Farooqui, Daesh-designated chief in Afghanistan and a militant of Pakistani origin, his nationality became a trigger for the Indian media to suggest that Pakistan itself played a role in the assault. The neighbor in its accusations has somehow conveniently ignored the fact that ISKP has a presence in two of its own southern states.
The governments of Pakistani and Afghanistan have recently started new trust-building efforts by appointing special envoys. Pakistan has appointed veteran diplomat Mohammad Sidique Khan, while Afghanistan appointed Mohammed Umer Daudzai. These efforts have gained pace with Pakistan approving special grants and scholarships for Afghan students. As of July 20, two important bilateral trade routes have been opened as well. Pakistan's army chief paid a visit to Afghanistan last month and according to local newspapers, the chief executive of Afghanistan, Abdullah Abdullah will soon pay a visit to Islamabad.
Assuming that Pakistan is supporting Daesh to destabilize Afghanistan and spoil bilateral relations doesn’t seem to be of any strategic interest to Pakistan — it is rather against it. The UN report strengthens the belief that the damage Daesh have caused to Pakistan outweighs narratives that Pakistan has something to do with the militant group's operations.
UN report strengthens the belief held by many Pakistanis that the damage Daesh have caused to Pakistan outweighs narratives that Pakistan has something to do with the militant group's operations.
The report said that more than 6,000 Pakistani militants, most belonging to the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) group attacking Pakistani military and civilian targets, are hiding in Afghanistan and some of them have linked up with ISKP. Both of the groups have a great anti-Pakistan sentiment.
To Pakistan's further woe, Deash seem to have found a common ground with the separatist Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) by targeting Pakistan’s regional interests.
BLA is the separatist group which claimed responsibility for June's attack on the Pakistan Stock Exchange in Karachi. The attack has been seen in relation to Chinese-Pakistani cooperation, as 40 percent of the Karachi bourse's strategic shares belong to a consortium comprising three Chinese stock exchanges. BLA claimed to have carried out the offensive because of what it said was China’s infringement on the rights of Balochi people. The militant group has been accused by Pakistan of receiving funds and support from Indian intelligence.
Meanwhile, the Daesh have kidnapped and targeted many Chinese citizens working on projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) infrastructure program, which is an economic savior for Pakistan. They also targeted an electoral rally in Balochistan in 2018, which brought the election process to the brink of collapse.
Attacks on mosques in Pakistan, election rallies and security forces have killed dozens of people, affecting Pakistan's economic ambitions, and making it very clear that the Deash are a bigger threat to Pakistan than to India. There is no sane reason why Pakistan would become the militants' accomplice.
The group’s ability to strike alliances with militant organizations like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and an Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan splinter group is continuously expanding its longevity and resilience, and becoming a threat not only to Afghanistan and Pakistan but also other regional countries, Central Asian republics, Russia, and China. Amid its blame games, India is facing the same threat.
– Naila Mahsud is a Pakistani political and International relations researcher, with a focus on regional politics and security issues.