Are Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) affiliated with Al Qaeda or Islamic State (IS)? The question of their affiliation with Arab based militant wings often hit the discussion of security experts. The question, how the militant wings inspire our local outfits, should take the core discussion.

The bigger threat to Pakistan is extremism per se. In the words of American scholar Amy Zalman, terrorist organisations like Islamic State and Al-Qaeda provide a core narrative that offers “a sinuous story-line of glory” that local actors could “franchise” and mold to fit local ideological goals. Thus, Islamic State may or may not directly pose a threat to Pakistan, but this country has many groups that can easily identify themselves with a global terror group. The real war takes place in the informational realm, where a clash of narratives takes place.

Every extremist—be an individual or a group—is susceptible to the ideology of Islamic State. When an individual’s or a group’s worldview matches with that of Islamic States, they become natural allies. Though they may not be in contact with each other. They become allies in thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Islamic State has no country-specific agenda; like other extremists groups, it does not believe in nation states. Islamic State wants to—and claims to have—established a caliphate, which will annex other Muslim countries in the first phase. Then they would extend it to the entire world.

Islamic State has to be defeated in the realm of information. That is, their narrative has to be defeated with an equally powerful narrative that has cultural and ideological resonance.

In the most candid admission, Prime Minister’s advisor on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz early last year stated that Afghan Taliban enjoy sanctuary in Pakistan. However, it didn’t impress or surprised many. He said the obvious, but it is the first time Pakistan came out of its state of denial. “We have some influence on them [Taliban] because their leadership is in Pakistan, and they get some medical facilities, their families are here,” Aziz said in a panel discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, DC What prompted Pakistan to confess sheltering and facilitating the Taliban?

A four-nation coordination group, comprising Pakistan, Afghanistan, the United States and China, has held four meetings since December last year to establish a road map for further talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Pakistan has been fighting its own Taliban and other terrorist outfits, who pose an existential threat to the country. Contrary to the establishment’s view Afghan and Pakistani versions of the Taliban are ideologically one and the same.

Before the Zarb-e-Azb operation, it was easy for Pakistan to deny the Afghan Taliban’s presence on this side of the Durand Line. Now that the army claims to have ‘cleared’ South and North Waziristans, with the exception of a few pockets, it has become impossible to hide sanctuaries of the Afghan Taliban. Pakistan’s admission can also be a political ploy: Aziz stated that Pakistan can use some levers to influence or pressure the Taliban to come to the negotiation table. Which means that Afghanistan and other members of the coordination group should not expect too much from Pakistan. Thus, Islamabad absolves itself of any responsibility and passes the buck to the Kabul government to make the future talks successful.