The assumption that all branching ideologies of Islamic extremism are homogenous in character, is fallacy. The ignorance of facts can lead to paranoia on a mass scale, resulting often in misplaced fear. For example, the common belief that Al Qaeda had a strong presence in Iraq at the time of the American invasion to oust Saddam Hussein and his WMDs, served as a common justification for the war after 9/11. But links to Al Qaeda were simply false at the time. This was easily verifiable information, but religious extremism plays quickly into the various narratives of fear because there is not enough information to separate Islamist organisations from one another; their manifestos, their beliefs and aims. A lot of it has to do with Islamic theology which many won’t bother getting into. As such, most assume the Taliban would be natural friends with the Islamic State (IS) fighters, and that their visions would align neatly on the ideal of a global Islamic Caliphate. Let us remember that politics is never far from the minds of these conniving men and women; they are competitive, power hungry and human. They do not function in harmony even within themselves, much less with foreign organisations with a different power hierarchy and set of goals.
As rumours abound of an IS threat lurking around Pakistan and Afghanistan, it would be intelligent to remember that the Pakistani Taliban and the Islamic State are fighting to achieve two entirely separate things. They are both Islamists, and they are both violent, but they are pursuing their own brands of politics. Firstly and most important, the Caliphate. A little bit of history: the issue of the Caliphs in Islam has been controversial since after the death of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). By the third Caliph, serious differences had broken out amongst the Muslim community; the third and fourth Caliphs of Islam were assassinated and there were divisions drawn that have lasted until present day. As such, it is reasonable to assume that IS Caliphate vs. Regional TTP will have its fair share of impossible troubles. Politicised Islam, especially amongst a group as splintered and informal as the Pakistani Taliban, will always be contentious because it requires mass consent. Though the occasional TTP commander might declare his support for the IS, by and large, it means nothing. At this time, both the Pakistani and Afghani Taliban recognise Mullah Omar as their sole leader, and the IS “Amir-ul-momineen” Abu Bakar Al Baghdadi hasn’t made the cut. To imagine that the two organisations would join hands, dismantle their power structures and mutate into a monstrous TTP-IS nexus, is foolhardy. The most they can do is be inspired by each other’s macabre theatres of evil.