The Sindh Counter-Terrorism Department’s report’s claims of the Islamic State (IS) having avenues to entrench itself in the Pakistani state are worrying, but accurate. The report states that IS can exploit sectarian hate and the existence of extremist outfits to its advantage in the process of recruitment, particularly in Punjab.
The presence of groups such as Lashkar-i-Janghvi within the province makes the IS threat even more problematic. But Punjab is not the only area that needs a closer eye, Sindh, and in particular Karachi, are just as threatened by the proliferation of IS sympathisers in society.
The attack on the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar Shrine in Sehwan was only one of those claimed by IS in recent times, but it is by far the most deadly to be associated with the terrorist organisation. The Safoora Goth carnage, which led to the deaths of over 45 is another horrifying incident attributed to the organisation. Both these attacks were orchestrated in Sindh, meaning that the organisation is already fulfilling its recruitment drive and is finding footholds in the province.
The presence of IS literature in parts of Balochistan and others also belies that the government cannot sit comfortably and allow this dangerous enemy to spread.
But even if the government comes down hard on print versions of literature and operatives on the ground, this group, unlike others, is tech-savy and hence, more dangerous. The proliferation of IS literature online is proving to be a popular recruitment tool among a pool of educated young adults, and this is the biggest issue.
Brainwashing the educated tends to be more permanent, and stalling will only give the IS more ground than can be afforded. With this, IS gets a multifaceted support base; educated youth and hardened militants from LeJ and other terrorist outfits. However, the players are the same as they were yesterday.
Those who once swore allegiance to Al-Qaeda of the Taliban today have found a new demiurge. They are still local, and the threat can be eliminated.
CTD Sindh’s report is only the first step, it must also take action. The provincial and federal governments need to act fast on this warning; for once, a provincial police force has correctly identified a growing threat, with specific problems highlighted – a good indicator of where to start taking action. Blocking any and all IS material dissemination online – should give the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority something worthwhile to do as well – is one immediate way to halt the spread.
Arresting known facilitators and sympathisers should follow. This is not an instance where the government can tarry, it must act now and act fast.