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Pakistan: After the dust settles

Tuesday 9 August 2016, by siawi3


July 31, 2016

BY Umer Ali

Understanding ISIS

“Anyone who believes in religion cannot do such an act. They do not have any religion, their only religion is terrorism”

In the month of July, ISIS claimed 9 terrorist attacks all over the world. From a café in the posh area of Dhaka, Bangladesh to a Church in France, terrorist, paying allegiance to the Islamic State attacked the unarmed civilians.

The first attack happened on 1 July, 2016, when 5 men attacked a café in an elite area of Dhaka, killing 23 and wounding 50. Those killed included the citizens of Bangladesh, Italy, Japan and America. The attack shocked the world, not only because of its audacity but also due to the identity of the attackers. All of them either in their late teens or early adulthood, belonged to well-off families or studied at expensive, elitist schools.

The second attack was in a Shia-dominated locality of Baghdad, the capital city of Iraq. In one of the worst suicide bombings in the country’s history, 325 people were killed and more than 225 were injured. Right next day, 4 events of suicide bombing were occurred – one in Jeddah, 2 Qatif and one in none other than the holy mosque in Medina. The attacks killed 7, and wounded 7 others.

After a short pause, the fourth ISIS attack of this month was reported in Nice, France. The lone attacker drove a heavy truck on the crowd, which had gathered to watch the Bastille Day fireworks. After rushing the truck ruthlessly on the crowd, he started firing at the survivors until he was killed by the police. The attack, which was unique in its technique, killed 84 people and another 308 were wounded.

On 18th July, a young Afghan severely injured 4 people with a knife and axe in a train at Würzburg, Germany. On Saturday last week, 2 suicide bombers detonated their bombs in a crowded rally of Hazara community in Afghanistan. The deadly bombing claimed the lives of 80 people, while more than 231 people were injured.

On Sunday, a Syrian youth blew himself up at a musical event, injuring 15 people. On Tuesday this week, a Church in France was attacked by two knife-yielding men. Priest of the Church, in his eighties, was beheaded by the attackers before they were shot dead by the police. A day after, on Wednesday, a deadly ISIS-claimed attack in Syria killed at least 44 and injured more than 100.

As the human lives are more becoming just a number, the world is still recovering from the shock and fear that this wave of attacks have created. Sheikh Hasina Wajid, the Bangladeshi Prime Minister who was stunned by the recent attacks, has failed to yet acknowledge the existence of ISIS in Bangladesh. Instead, she blames her political opponents to be behind these attacks.

“Anyone who believes in religion cannot do such an act. They do not have any religion, their only religion is terrorism,” she said after the Café attack.

Similarly, most of the world leaders and analysts rarely talk about the ideological leanings of the attackers, and focus more on their backgrounds to find their motives. While those leaning to the right of the center put the blame on Islam and Muslims as a whole, those leaning to left tend to buy “anything but Islam” narrative.

Faisal Saeed Al Mutar, an Iraqi writer and human rights activist is opposed to this practice, which he considers an extreme stance, often blinded by the biases. The truth, according to him, lies somewhere between these extremes. Not all Muslims are of course terrorists and neither can acquit Islam as an ideology of these terror attacks.

Explaining the phenomenon of well-educated people joining the ranks of ISIS, he said, “People join ISIS for more than one reasons. Many join to be part of something bigger than themselves, get attention and fight the status quo,” pointing towards theory of disoriented youth, which faces identity crisis while living in the Western societies.

“Some join because they have been indoctrinated since childhood with ideas of Islamic caliphate, while many, who have staunch sectarian inclinations see it as the most successful group in defeating Iran and Shia forces,” he added.

“Islamist Ideology plays a role in driving some of those people by keep affirming to them that they are doing it for a good cause and they are going to the paradise.”

Talking about the genuine grievances that many Muslims have, either in the West or in their own countries, he says it is the Islamism as an ideology that drives them to kill others. “It clouds their thinking and it makes the world looks so binary – between believers and non-believers.”

In Pakistan, presence of ISIS has been long established through multiple media reports. Several people from Sialkot, Lahore, Gujranwala and other parts of the country have been apprehended by the security officials over suspicions of being the members of ISIS.

Members of TTP- Jamat ul Ahrar group, which is responsible for some of the deadly attacks in Pakistan, has announced its allegiance with ISIS.

Faisal Muhammad, who is working as a Research Analyst at the Center for International Strategic Studies, believes it is an undeniable fact that ISIS is present in Pakistan. “Even Foreign secretary admitted that ISIS is a serious threat to Pakistan,” he says.

Talking the threats it poses, Muhammad adds, “We must remember that ISIS model is different than that of Al-Qaida. Anyone, anywhere can swear allegiance with ISIS, and undertake attacks in their name.”

“Al-Qaida on the other hand, operated through its own cells and branches in different countries, connected with the centralised Al-Qaida leadership. In the case of ISIS, members retain their original affiliations with local groups, thus, it is difficult to detect who has joined ISIS,” he explains.

Emphasising on the recruiting tactics of ISIS, he says, “It is recruiting through a propaganda using social media, flyers and wall chalking in many urban cities.” On why this propaganda could be effective, he explains, “Various opinion polls have shown that Pakistani public believes in the idea of an Islamic Caliphate. ISIS’s core message that it seeks to establish an Islamic Caliphate resonates with Muslims across the world, also in Pakistan.”

“In Pakistan Islamist-political parties have propagated this message for decades. But they didn’t resort to violence. ISIS’s success in taking territory in Syria and Iraq has attracted many young Pakistani towards the terrorist organisations and the recruitments are only expected to increase.”