ISLAMABAD - Intelligence Bureau Director-General Aftab Sultan yesterday testified before a Senate committee that hundreds of fighters from Pakistan were joining self-styled militant organisation, Daesh, in Syria.

Giving a briefing to Senate Standing Committee on Interior about IB’s counter-terrorism operations, chief of country’s top civilian intelligence agency said, “Emergence of Daesh was there in Pakistan as all other militant groups operating here have soft corner for it.” The statement of the IB DG who is an experienced retired police officer and former inspector general of police refuted the claims of Interior Minister Ch Nisar Ali Khan that there was no presence of Daesh or Islamic State in the country.

Sultan told the committee which met under the chair of Rehman Malik that all local militant groups, including Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipaha-e-Sihaba Pakistan, had a soft corner for Daesh. “Even TTP coordinates with Daesh though both are dead rivals in Afghanistan,” he said, adding Daesh was also exploiting cyber space. He said IB unearthed a big network of Daesh in Pakistan as after the Safoora Goth incident in Karachi some of its terrorists entered Punjab.

The DG claimed TTP was behind major incidents, including a terror attack on former SP Ch Aslam in Karachi and ANP leader Bashir Ahmed Bilour. “TTP is realigning with LeJ and SSP,” he said. “There is a little presence of Al-Qaeda in Karachi as it has been found in the killing of some police officers there,” he asserted. Local TTP commander Abid Muchar and Kazan Gul, wanted in 100 terror cases, were neutralised in an IB-led operation. TTP Fazlullah group was still the strongest one and all militant groups were working in tandem, he said. “Jandullah is a smaller group,” he said.

Sultan viewed law and order situation had improved while terror incidents considerably decreased as compared to the previous years after the launch of Zarb-e-Azb. “There is sharp decrease in killings in terror incidents, but such incidents cannot be completely averted in the country in next 8 to 10 years,” he asserted.

He said under a new mechanism, IB was closely working with the provincial police and respective counter terrorism departments. He maintained target killings had considerably decreased in Karachi as 1,922 people were killed in 2013, 1305 in 2014 and 546 in 2015. “There is a sea-change decrease,” he remarked. In Sindh, 1,121 terrorists, target killers, kidnappers and other criminals were arrested and 95 killed in IB-led operations. In KP, 581 terrorists were arrested and 84 were killed. IB traced those who attacked Shikarpur Imambargah, former SP Ch Aslam, SHO Shafique Tanoli, Meena Bazaar, Imamia Masjid Hayatabad, Bashir Balour in KP, Wagah Border in Punjab and district courts Islamabad, the panel was told.

The IB boss said foreign hands were not behind most of the attacks as local terrorists, mostly from tribal areas, were involved. He said IB unearthed a gang of dacoits that used to come from Afghanistan, dump its weapons in Tarnol areas of the capital and confessed to 10 big incidents. He appreciated that Punjab took lead in action against sectarian and proscribed groups and in choking their finances.

He said terrorists were reorganizing and there was need for border-control mechanism, particularly with Afghanistan, enhanced regional cooperation, implementation of NAP and de-radicalisation policy with focus on counter narrative. There was a need for rehabilitation of jehadi elements and effective implementation of policy for monitoring social media and cyber space while reconciliation process in Balochistan should be placed on fast track and Fata reforms implemented, he said.

About a question whether there was any need of targeted operation on the pattern of Karachi, he said the port city had a peculiar situation and he did not see the same in any other part of the country. Earlier, he gave an in-camera briefing to the committee about the issue of phone tapping of important personalities and bugging of meetings at the PM Secretariat as well as other of important offices.