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  • Writer's pictureSaleem Qamar Butt

Ominous ISIS War Clouds Hover over Pakistan and South Asia

US president Trumps’ announcement to withdraw American forces from Afghanistan in December 2018, checkmated by his own administration in Pentagon and Langley on the stated pretext of avoiding a power vacuum in Afghanistan, but in reality needing more time to shift the battle field to Pakistan that could not be fully executed due to resilient fight back by Pakistan Armed Forces, law enforcement agencies and above all heaviest human and economic cost borne by the state of Pakistan for winning the war against imposed terrorism on Pakistan. Subsequently, Mr. Trump himself committed a faux pas when replying to a question by a journalist, “I want to immediately withdraw from Afghanistan, but then we have nuclear Pakistan there… I have to listen to the General of the generals”; did he miss Iran intentionally? In retrospect, one may also add to his statement that “then we have CPEC and Gawadar deep sea port as part of Chinese BRI initiative in Pakistan”.

Apropos, even as Pakistan has gone many extra miles in persuading the Taliban to talk with American envoy as well as with Afghan incumbent government to make peace process and reconciliation a success, USA has neither lifted economic and military sanctions imposed on Pakistan nor released any economic pressure applied through IMF and FATF. At the same time Afghan president and his frustrated team having been made irrelevant by the emboldened Afghan Taliban are leaving no stone unturned in painting Pakistan in bad light and continue to allow India to use Afghan soil for using rented proxies for subversion and sabotage in Pakistan. As a new fine cut by the deep state’s mastermind, the same acts of terrorism are now being projected as ISIS (K) gaining foothold in Pakistan by well thought out malicious and fake nexus between ISIS and insignificant radical groups in Pakistan, which are otherwise already under sharp focus for rehab or nab by Pakistani authorities as part of National Action Plan and was explained by DG ISPR few days back. As a matter of fact, western think tanks and writers have been busy in spreading narrative of ISIS focusing on South Asia after losing territory in Syria and Iraq since the beginning of 2019; and India as a new American darling was quick to conflate her malevolent narrative of linking Kashmir freedom struggle as terrorism supported by Pakistan based non state actors. Hence, the new joint India-US narrative of ISIS threat in South Asia leaves Afghanistan in the background and aims at erroneously projecting some proscribed Pakistani radical organizations developing nexus with ISIS for creating uncontrolled chaos in Pakistan. Obviously it is meant to keep Pakistan Armed Forces busy on the internal front, pick up fight with new ghost called ISIS (as was done in 2001 against AQ, IMU, ETIM and TTP etc), subsequently paint picture of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenals as unsafe in a fragile country due to destroyed economy and poor law and order situation ( in short make Pakistan look like Afghanistan, Syria or Iraq God forbid), allow India to stage manage few more black swan operations in IOK and other parts of India as was recently witnessed at Pulwama and link it with Pakistani based ISIS. Ironically terrorists attacks in Sri Lanka that either looked like a reaction to white supremacist killing scores of Muslims in Christchurch in New Zealand or a mere stage managed operation to punish Sri Lanka for giving Hambantota port to China, got strangely claimed after more than 48 hours by ISIS, which had roots in Indian Tamil Nadu and Chennai. Thus the menacing agenda of shifting the war zone to Pakistan is in the process of taking off and we are likely to see more incidents of terrorism as was yesterday witnessed in Lahore at Hajveri Shrine.

Somewhat similar narratives were spread and faulty threat assessments were made after 9/11, against AQ for invading Afghanistan and engulfing Pakistan in it, simultaneously allowing the AQ splinters to travel to Iraq and Syria with lock stock and barrel. As the world witnessed transformation of 1980s’ Mujahedeen in to Afghan Taliban and non Afghans Mujahedeen into AQ, followed by AQ in Iraq, AQ in Syria, AQIS and finally ISIS by 2014….it simply enabled US and NATO allies to effectively decimate Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Syria, nevertheless. Most astonishingly, despite claims of defeating and destroying ISIS as was claimed for AQ in Afghanistan, the same Frankenstein monsters are back to place of origin i.e. in Afghanistan; no wonder as to why Afghanistan has remained an arena for the Great Games for the last almost 200 years. It is mind boggling to see these name changing ghosts to travel all over the globe undetected, acquire sophisticated weapons and munitions, logistic support and enormous sum of international currencies without being detected by FATF and most modern and capable intelligence agencies of the countries unable to do much about their indoctrination, travels, assembly, grouping, funding, arming and operations; thus just enabling NATO forces and local allies to effectively pulverize Muslims countries divided on sectarian and ethnic lines, killing innocent civilians, destroying their military and economic potentials including whole civilization. Call it clash of civilizations or resurgence of new crusades. Strangely, the so called Islamic state (ISIS) has been busy in targeting Muslims only on sectarian grounds, a fault line among Muslims exploited to the hilt at both intra and inter-state levels, as was done in the past by colonial powers. Therefore the war ravaged Middle East has resulted in creation of two distinct Muslim blocks: one lead by KSA and other lead by Iran with catastrophic results to the glee of historical foes. Muslim world continues to pay the price for becoming a threat as per NATO’s perception after demise of Warsaw Pact threat in 1990.

According to latest threat perception by US/ NATO, emerging China, resurgent Russia and Nuclear Pakistan along with potential nuclear Iran and North Korea are on the priority list. Hence, ISIS threat will be kept alive and hovering all over Asia- Pacific region till remaining premeditated objectives are not achieved. Pakistan playing a key role in Chinese BRI due to CPEC/ Gawadar port besides deep defence cooperation; and Iran and North Korea’s politico-economic and military proximity to Russia is bound to show them as a red flag to NATO’s bull. Therefore, the fresh narrative of ISIS focusing on Asia- Pacific looks set to take care of strategic interests of US/NATO in Indo-Pacific by making alliances, deploying armed forces and ensuring domination of land and sea lines of communications for uninterrupted flow of energy and trade. Needless to say that Pakistan ought to avoid falling prey to the new scheme, identify the motives of new narratives, and harness the non-state actors sooner than later besides ruthlessly defending its borders against illegal crossings. The internal preachers of such malicious theme and disproportionate scare mongers in sync with sponsors abroad also requires to be put on leash. Pakistan’s pivotal role in bringing peace to Afghanistan is suggested to be linked with written and practical guarantees against the ominous fresh ISIS war clouds hovering around. “Forewarned is forearmed”.

9th May 2019

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