ISLAMABAD - While the country’s top two security czars have given contradictory statements over presence of self-styled militant organization, Daesh, in Pakistan, it is being widely believed to be a potential threat to the state. And the IB boss is clearer on his statement than the interior minister.
At a time when the version of state functionaries was different over Daesh or Islamic State (IS) existence, political and security analysts say these are doing so for fear of severe implications on the foreign policy of the country.
The contradictory statements over the presence of Daesh from the top boss of the civilian intelligence agency, IB, the interior minister, the Foreign Office and the Punjab law minister have created more confusion at a time when the government is claiming to implement National Action Plan (NAP) on counter-terrorism effectively.
The analysts believe the denial of the interior minister over the IS presence was his political statement to calm down the people as the minister indirectly admitted its potential threat exists when he said, “Local militant organizations are re-branding themselves as Daesh and its structure does not exist in Pakistan.”
They say the state’s security institutions had been denying the threat of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Al-Qaeda in the past and admitted it at a time when both strengthened their roots in the country.
Intelligence Bureau DG Aftab Sultan, while giving a briefing to the Senate Standing Committee on Interior last week had said that Daesh was a potential threat to Pakistan as local militant groups, including Lashker-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Sipaha-e-Sihaba Pakistan (SSP) and TTP had soft corner for it.
After his statement, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and the Foreign Office spokesman separately rejected the claim of the IB DG and ruled out the presence of IS. Inter-Services Public Relations DG Lt-Gen Asim Bajwa, talking to a TV channel, had said no organization, including IS, would be allowed to strengthen roots in the country.
Zahid Hussain, political and security analyst, said the interior minister factually admitted the threat of Daesh when he said local militant groups were rebranding themselves with the name of IS. "Threat does not mean Daesh has a structure here. If its ideological basis exists, the threat is there,” he said, adding the statement of the minister showed that IS had ideological basis in Pakistan. He said the minister was underplaying the threat and the IB chief was much clear in his statement. The state institutions had been denying the presence of Taliban earlier. He said it apparently looked the interior minister did not want to spread panic by giving the statement, but the statement of the Foreign Office was more diplomatic than factual.
Muhammad Amir Rana, another security and political analyst who heads an Islamabad-based security think tank, says Daesh is a potential threat, though smaller than TTP and other militant groups. He said contradictory statements of different state institutions had different reasons to believe. The Foreign Office thinks that if it accepts the presence of Daesh, it would have to play more active and responsible role as Pakistan has already accepted the 35 Islamic states’ military alliance against Daesh. “The FO thinks that an open admission will have severe implications on the foreign policy of the country,” he averred. He said the interior minister was using the term of rebranding as he thought that by admitting it in public he would have to face more questions and explanations about the steps the government had untaken to counter the threat. “Traditionally, the country’s security institutions never accepted any new threat in the past as they at first had not admitted presence of Al-Qaeda,” he said. The government should accept this potential threat though it is smaller as compared to other militant groups. He viewed the government should accept reality as Daesh would become stronger if other smaller groups became weak.
Lt-Gen (r) Talhat Masood said the statement of the IB DG reflected the position more accurately than that of the interior minister. “If certain militant groups want to rebrand themselves as Daesh, phenomenon of Daesh is there though it has a small nucleus,” he said. About the contradictory statement of Nisar, he said, “Probably, the interior minister wanted to calm down the people by saying he is doing a great job. But this contradiction is not internal because the minister’s statement is much more for public consumption as he did not want to create a situation, he said.

This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 17-Feb-2016 here.