Typical of the foreign office to play down the Islamic State (IS) threat in Pakistan the same day police prevented a possible disaster in Karachi by killing five IS militants; among them their local commander and a remote and drone technology expert. According to police, they were part of a team tasked with disrupting Moharram proceedings. This happened just as FO spokesman Nafees Zakaria was rubbishing news reports of an IS flag seen flying in Islamabad as “media reports do not warrant any response”. This is not the first time our foreign office has rejected increasing IS influence in Pakistan. The interior ministry, which ordered an investigation into the Islamabad flag incident, was in similar denial till Ch Nisar ran it.
Foreign Minister Kh Asif’s bold opening up about our security policy – and setting the record straight about US involvement in the matter at the same time – raised hopes of a more sincere soul searching all around. However, going by the news, it does not seem Kh Asif’s direction is appreciated by many in the government, despite the strong endorsement of the prime minister. Perhaps the foreign office, at least, should take media reports – like those about the IS bust in Karachi – more seriously before commenting on ground reality.
For a government at war with TTP/a Qaeda for so long there is surprisingly little understanding about the way such outfits work. Both Ch Nisar and the foreign office initially ruled out IS in Pakistan because “it is a Middle Eastern phenomenon”. They do not realise, then, that for IS to come here it would not need to build a navy and sail across the Arabian and Indian oceans. It would just have to take up funding, and of course arming, of the outfits presently at war with the Pakistani state. So, as long as the bad guys are not completely neutralised, there’s always the possibility of IS converts growing. The possibility, if anything, is higher since the enemy is on the run and desperate. Surely we are better served by accepting, identifying and diffusing such threats than keeping our heads buried in the sand.