Published On: Mon, Sep 11th, 2017

IS becoming a bigger threat

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Better late than never. It is good to see that the government finally seems to be have taken a look at the problem of IS radicalisation at home, with the National Counter Terrorism Authority devising a plan to find out how many Pakistani citizens have travelled to countries like Iraq, Syria and Yemen – where the Islamic State is particularly strong – and are yet to return.

Particular focus will be paid to those whose visas for these countries have expired. While this policy is a good start, it still leaves much to be desired. The Islamic State is a transnational militant group which has a strong footing in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Those looking to sign up and fight for it in the civil wars of Middle Eastern countries are more likely to enter the countries through the help of the IS rather than with a visa.

Nacta will, instead, more likely to end up tracing those who went to the Middle East as a throughway to immigrate to Europe. This strategy also doesn’t account for the fact that outside of war zones, the IS is a decentralised entity. In fact, many of those who carry out attacks in the name of the IS are inspired by the group but have never actually had contact with its leadership.

This was the case with the San Bernardino attack of 2015, where a married couple of Pakistani origin killed 14 people. Both were living legally in the US and there was no reason to believe they had been radicalised. In such cases, this is nothing the Nacta strategy will be able to do that can help identify them before they carry out attacks. The aim for Pakistan may be to identify those who have been trained by the IS and plan on returning to the country and signing up with its Pakistan syndicate.

The IS has gained a foothold in the tribal areas and was responsible for some of the deadliest attacks carried out this year. Here too there is a possibility that many innocent people who left the country only seeking to immigrate to places like Turkey and Europe will end up being tarred as terrorists and their families harassed. A better plan would be to eliminate the IS at home while beefing up border security to track those who enter the country.

The IS has become too large a problem, both at home and internationally, to be dealt with only through tracking every Pakistani abroad. A multi-faceted plan of action is needed with cooperation from our neighbours and the international community to fight out the IS threat.


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