When it comes to terrorist outfits that have infiltrated in Pakistan, ISIS is one name that has surely resulted in the Pakistani authorities experiencing some sleepless nights. From Northern Iraq (Mosul) to Syria and from there on to the rest of the world, the global aspirations of IS can’t be overlooked. In terms of Pakistan, it isn’t about the militants operating in FATA, rather the real threat lies in the urban areas, where the youth are being radicalized big time.

Before staring contemplating how to fight IS, it is important for Pakistan to know the group inside out. There has to be a reason why educated masses are showing allegiance to Mr. Baghdadi, the figure-head of IS. Although, the current situation isn’t bleak enough, but it is high time that Pakistan must set the panic alarms on. In terms of current situation of IS in Pakistan, the group has become a brand name that is catching eye-balls, and this is where it gets difficult to handle.

IS’s presence in Pakistan is debatable. The Foreign Office has, time and again, assured the nation that there isn’t anything to bother about. However, what has transpired over the last few months forces us to think otherwise. Pakistan, as a state, is getting wrong here. Measuring the presence of IS in Pakistan isn’t about the number of people who have flown over to Syria or Levant, rather it is about how many people share the same ideology or sympathize with the group. In the light of this, IS has a massive presence in Pakistan, curbing which should be the way to go for Pakistan.

Now consider ISIS’s reach. The organization has more than 35,000 foot soldiers with foreign fighters joining in the ranks in large numbers. It controls territory in northern Iraq and Syria to the size equal to that of Jordan, seized $500 million from Mosul’s central bank in 2014, makes $3 million in oil trade every day, relish on hefty tax payments from minorities, and considered as the richest outfit amassing net worth of over $2 billion. Add to it the organization’s massive online presence and you have the world’s most feared outfit- the ISIS.

Security analysts who are of the view that IS is still in the initial phase in Pakistan aren’t performing a 360 degree analysis. It’s more than two years since IS went public and the formation of the group was formally announced. Considering their massive online presence, denying the presence of IS in Pakistan, or stating that the group is yet to infiltrate Pakistan, is like living in a fool’s paradise. 

Security paradigm is constantly evolving, and according to Bruce Hoffman, the economic measures such as making the captives do all the laborious work has allowed IS to focus entirely on the recruitment process. With a sustainable enough economy and the semiotics the group is using, it is likely to work for them in the future as well. After all, there has to be a reason why educated people in Europe are willing to say good-bye to the lavish lifestyle they are enjoying. Safoora Goth carnage was an eye-opener, and what transpired recently at the Darga Shah Noorani in Balochistan highlighted and manifested the fact that the IS narrative is working worldwide, and Pakistan is no exception to it. The time is ticking, and the Pakistani authorities need to unearth the ideology before it explodes, literally!

Pakistanis need to be sure about whether IS exists in Pakistan or not. This dichotomy wouldn’t work. If this confusion exists, then Pakistan is surely going to fight a battle within a war itself. Therefore, being clear about what you’d like to achieve, and why you want to achieve that has to be the top-most priority of the government, and more precisely, the law enforcement agencies. In terms of the trends of IS in Pakistan, it mostly depends on whether the state itself allows the group to infiltrate within the region or not. Taking tough decisions may not come naturally, but allowing the things to carry on without thinking outside of the box is asking for trouble.

In the contemporary scenario, it seems as if the Pakistani government has literally conveyed to the group that as long as you don’t hit us, we have no issues with you expanding your network. We wouldn’t take any action whatsoever against those who have shown allegiance to you in Pakistan. But please- for heaven's sake- just don’t get back to us. What a great security policy our civilian government has in store for the nation!  I guess, Operation Gibraltar and Grandslam is a special case study Pakistanis need to be cognizant of. Letting IS grow is the biggest mistake the Pakistani government is committing. Army is doing a commendable job, and with the change in command, the counter-terrorism policies need to be pursued with full vigor. But, as I enunciated above, this menace can’t be countered alone by Operation Zarb-e-Azb. Pakistani authorities are playing into the hands of IS, and the inability to device any strategy and remaining ignorant about the group’s presence in the country is the major factor that can help it rise big time.

Now, let’s focus on the other side of the picture. What to do to eradicate or overcome this menace is the question, then? If the government is to stop IS from infiltrating further in the region, then it must understand that it is the mind, not the weapons, that do the trick. Disarming the militants wouldn’t suffice. Just get rid of the jihadi literature that is easily available in Pakistan, and most worryingly, taught at various levels across the country. Knowing your enemy and knowing what they’re focusing upon is the key.

Unfortunately, we in Pakistan, have given little attention to this fact. If the government focuses on social inclusiveness, and pays much attention to monitoring and regularizing the curriculum being taught to the kids across the country and keeping check over the clerics, then it would be immensely helpful. Here’s a workable solution. Adopt a system where all of the clerics are government representatives, and what they preach is in line with the writ of the state. This is how clerics are regularized in Turkey, and replicating that in Pakistan along with the aspects highlighted above can result in IS having a hard time making further inroads in Pakistan.