After months of denying the existence of the Islamic State militant group in Pakistan, federal authorities seem to have finally accepted that the Middle Eastern terrorist outfit is gaining a foothold in the country.
According to a list of militant outfits proscribed by the Ministry of Interior Affairs, the Islamic State– also known by its Arabic acronym of Da’ish – was banned in July. The list was shared by the country’s security czar in the parliament last week.
Considering the official stance, the government has banned the militant group without the group’s presence in the country. The list shows the outfit was proscribed on July 15, making it the only one to have been banned in the aftermath of the Army Public School Peshawar massacre of December last year.
The last group to be banned was the Jeay Sindh Muttahida Mahaz on March 15, 2013. The Hafiz Saeed-led Jamaatud Dawa happens to be under observation since December 1, 2005. So has the government is finally acknowledged the presence of the militant outfit by banning it? “This is contradictory to the previous statements of the government that IS does not exist in Pakistan or it is not operating in Pakistan,” said Ashraf Jahangir Qazi, former ambassador to the US and former head of Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad. “The government issues contradictory statements all the time. There is nothing new here.”
He said it is not necessary the militant group had been operating in the country and the government may just be echoing the narrative of the US. “This is a straight-forward regional, sectarian fight with one of the richest countries supporting all the Sunni extremists and then Iran, on the other hand, supporting the others,” Ashraf said.
“This is their fight and it has reached Pakistan and we follow what we are told whether it’s consistent or not,” he said. Maintaining its official stance, the Foreign Office has repeatedly stated that the Islamic State has no footprint in the country, despite reports that some local militant groups have already aligned themselves with the terrorist group, which has established a self-styled caliphate in Syria and Iraq.