Pakistan, India and Bangladesh are under a new threat of the deadly terrorist organisation Islamic State (IS), also called Daesh, resulting from a major shift from the Middle East, a recent study has found.
According to a new research conducted by Abdullah Khan, the Managing Director of Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies (PICSS), ‘Wilayat-e-Hind’ (WeH) is the new chapter of Daesh which is quickly attracting the educated youth in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, and promoting its extremist ideology.
The ongoing military operations in and around Pakistan’s border areas with Afghanistan have provided gaps to the IS militants who have swiftly moved in either from Syria or Iraq and have presence in across the bordering areas in Afghanistan, the study found, adding that the terror group is provoked by the governments of India and Bangladesh which are known for their ‘state-sponsored terrorism’ against the Muslim communities.
PROSPECTS OF IS IN SOUTH ASIA:
The study titled “Prospects of Daesh’s Expansion in South Asia” says that an unorganised presence of WeH militants has been identified in parts of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and other countries of the South Asian region. The WeH operates as an Indian chapter of the IS which was formally announced in 2016.
The study highlights that the Indian citizens, especially from Kerala State, find IS more attractive than any other group and at least 54 people from Kerala have announced to join the IS during the past three years.
“Those who have joined the Wilayat-e-Hind are well-educated and most of them are engineers, doctors and MBA degree holders. Indian citizens are mostly joining Khorasan chapter of Daesh than the core group in Syria or Iraq. However, the possible launching route of Indian IS members to Afghanistan is not clear yet,” the study reads.
INDIAN OPPRESSION IN KASHMIR:
The study also identifies the India-sponsored oppression in Kashmir as a key reason that more youth are joining the IS.
“Growing unrest and protracted conflict of Kashmir is going to further complicate security dynamics of the region. More Kashmiri citizens joining Kashmir militancy is going to deepen the societal divide in the Indian occupied Kashmir (IoK) which may impact the whole region,” the study finds.
The ongoing torture and killings of Muslims in across India at the hands of Hindu extremist groups like RSS, VHP and others under the ongoing campaign of forced conversions — also called ‘Ghar Wapis’ under which oppression and rape is used as a tool to kill and force Muslims to covert towards Hinduism — is also a major factor, it said.
The maltreatment of Indian Muslims by the government and Hindu extremists will push more Indian citizens towards Daesh, the study finds.
Talking to Pakistan Today, Abdullah Khan said that the WeH Bangladesh chapter was another surprise addition where the so-called secular regime of Prime Minister Hasina Wajid was targeting religious Muslim groups under a witch-hunt drive.
The ongoing targeting of scholars linked to Jamat-e-Islami and other religious right-wing outfits has provoked educated youth to take up arms. On November 7, 2015, Dr Sajit Debnath, aka Muhammad Saifullah Ozaki, gave a lecture to the audience at the Asia Pacific Conference at Ritsumeikan University. The topic of the lecture was Womenomics in Business. But this was one of the last public appearances of Dr Sajit before he disappeared along with his family in December 2015. Dr Sajit is a PhD and was considered an expert on the Islamic finance and economic theory. Later, he announced to join the IS.
Abdullah Khan said that Daesh has successfully replaced Al-Qaeda as global champion of terror and it uses the concept of Khilafah to inspire Muslim youth from around the globe.
“The concept of Khilafah is the next level of the concept of global Jihad or ultimate goal of global Jihad. The conquering of most parts of Iraq and Syria helped IS get a global attraction. Some Pakistani and Afghan Taliban commanders and commanders of some smaller groups got in contact with ISIS,” he said.
“Abdur Rauf Khadim, an Afghan Taliban Commander from southern Afghanistan and former Guantanamo detainee, Abdur Rahim Muslim Dost, were the first to join ISIS and propagate for the IS.
In January 2015, Wilayat-e-Khorasan was officially formed after pledging of the allegiance by some senior TTP commanders and commanders of at least ten smaller groups.
Abdullah Khan also sheds light over Khurasan chapter’s different approach to recruit militants.
“In this part of the world, IS focused on making allies. Except for Afghan Taliban, the IS is pursuing a policy of cooperation instead of confrontation with other militant groups of the region. It found an ally in the form of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Al-Aalami (LeJ-A),” he said, adding that Daesh was part of the five-member alliance formed against Pakistan in Paktia in 2016, including TTP, JuA, LI, LeJ-A.
Differences have developed with Lashkar-e-Islam as they are fighting at some places, but cooperation with other groups continue. He said that IS Khorasan militants have developed an arch along Pakistani border to target the local areas and are interested in waging a war from the Afghan soil.
“The arch was developed by creating bases of IS militants in Badakhshan, Nuristan, Kuner and Nangarhar provinces of Afghanistan,” he added.
Khan argued that the IS terrorists had resorted to guerrilla-style attacks and they are capable of penetrating high-security zone of the Afghan capital.
“The quality of attacks and ability of IS militants to inflict heavy losses on the enemy is improving. More militants from Syria and Iraq are joining Khorasan chapter which will further enhance operational capabilities of the group,” he stated.
Asked about the ideological aspects of IS terrorists, Abdullah Khan reacted that the group professes extremist views of Islam and mostly people from Deobandi and Salafi (Ahle-e-Hadith) schools of thought have joined the group in the region.
“All major organisations of Deobandi and Ahle-e-Hadith have condemned Daesh and consider it as a threat to their following. Ideologically, the group’s prospects of growth are bleak, however, political issues will provide the required ground for expansion,” he said.
WAY FORWARD ::
Talking about the way forward, Abdullah Khan said that the solution of the key political issues of Muslims in the region need to be resolved amicably.
“Afghan peace process needs to be stepped up but should never provide Daesh a justification to market the possible deal as ‘sell out of Jihad’,” he said while adding that mistrust between regional security forces/intelligence agencies needs to be removed for the betterment of the region. “Islamic State should be seen as a common threat instead of using it as leverage by one state against the other,” he concluded.