Warning of Islamic State’s tentacles spreading to South Asia….writes Arul Louis
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has warned of the danger of the Islamic State spreading its tentacles to South Asia through organisations like the Tehreek-e-Khilafat in Pakistan and called for international action against the grave threat.
In a grim report on the Islamic State’s threat to international peace and security presented to the Security Council Tuesday, Ban said groups like the Tehreek-e-Khilafat in Pakistan “are sufficiently attracted by its underlying ideology to pledge allegiance to its so-called caliphate and self-proclaimed caliph.”
Ban called the terrorist organisation Islamic State, which is also known by the acronyms ISIS, ISIL and Da’esh, “an unprecedented threat to international peace and security.” He said, “This is a matter of considerable concern, since these groups appear to be emulating ISIL’s tactics and carrying out attacks on its behalf.”
“In 2016 and beyond, member states should prepare for a further increase in the number of foreign terrorist fighters travelling to other States on the instructions of ISIL,” he added.
The Islamic State now controls swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria, but Ban said, “The recent expansion of the ISIL sphere of influence across West and North Africa, the Middle East and South and South-East Asia demonstrates the speed and scale at which the gravity of the threat has evolved in just 18 months.”
“In Afghanistan and Pakistan, ISIL continues to develop a network of contacts and sympathisers who carry out attacks in its name,” Ban said. “On 13 January 2016, the ISIL group ‘Khorasan Province,’ which operates in Pakistan and Afghanistan, issued a statement claiming credit for an attack on the Pakistani Consulate in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.”
“The complexity of the recent attacks and the level of planning, coordination and sophistication involved raise concerns about its future evolution,” he warned.
An incident not included in Ban’s report was the Islamic State taking responsibility for killing more than 40 Ismailis in a bus attack in Karachi.
Pakistan appears conflicted in dealing with the Islamic State challenge. Last October, General Raheel Sharif, the Pakistani Chief of the Army Staff, was quoted in the Pakistani media as saying, “There are people in Islamabad who want to show their allegiance to Daesh. So it’s a very dangerous phenomenon.”
Speaking to the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies in London, Raheel Sharif added, “I feel the future challenge is Da’esh. It’s a bigger name. Al-Qaeda was a name but Da’esh is now a bigger name.”
However the next month, Pakistani foreign ministry issued a denial “There is no footprint of Da’esh in Pakistan. We will also not tolerate anyone affiliated with it,” Foreign Office spokesperson Qazi Khalilullah was quoted as saying. But he said it was aware of the Islamic State threat and the security forces were on alert.
Ban said in his report that till the middle of December 2015, 34 groups had reportedly pledged allegiance to ISIL. “In view of its territorial claims of more ‘provinces,’ it is expected that ISIL affiliates will increase in number and that its membership will grow in 2016,” Ban said.
“It is able to adapt quickly to the changing environment and to persuade or inspire like-minded terrorist groups in various regions of the world to facilitate and commit acts of terrorism,” he added.
Therefore, he said the the international community must also be “adaptive” in its responses and “take comprehensive approaches that incorporate security-led counter-terrorism initiatives and preventive measures.”