In the recent international media propaganda Pakistan’s tribal areas has figured again as a global jihad hub, consisting of thousands of foreign fighters from diverse countries. The AFP reported: “Pakistan is still a major destination for radicalised Muslims bent on a life of jihad, despite hundreds of US drone strikes, the death of Osama bin Laden and the fracturing of al-Qaeda. There could be around 2,000 to 3,500 foreign fighters in the border areas from around 30 different countries.”

It is strange that how a professional news agency floated such a report, which is violative of its own standards of journalistic ethics. A bird’s eye view of this news report denoted that it projected a misleading opinion, rather than presenting the factual position on the ground.

The propaganda was then, wittingly or unwittingly, picked up by some Pakistani media outlets and journalists without obtaining the narrative of Pakistan’s security institutions over the issue. The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) also, hurriedly seized the opportunity to identify itself as a “global jihadist organisation” by launching a video comprising its slain Western affiliates and gave an impression that TTP was actually organising white jihadists in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

Such misinformation spread by the Western media is nothing new, rather just an old wine in a new bottle, as it is aimed at maligning Pakistan for nurturing terrorist training camps against the coalition forces in Afghanistan and undermining its role after the US-Nato withdrawal in 2014.

Recently, the Afghan authorities have categorically recognised Pakistan’s importance for Afghanistan’s security after the withdrawal of coalition troops. An Afghan delegation, headed by Afghan Defence Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammad, came to Pakistan in January on a five-day visit and showed willingness to accept its offer to train the Afghan troops.

The defence team’s visit manifested that the Afghans are finally convinced about Pakistan’s role in both countries’ combined endeavours to mitigate insurgency in the region. However, some hostile countries do not want Pakistan to acquire significance and a greater role in the region. Therefore, they are projecting that it is in the clutches of foreign insurgents mainly to reflect that a terrorism engulfed state would not be able to help Afghanistan stand on its own feet after the 2014 withdrawal.

Coming to the issue of increased white jihadists in Pakistan. It would be right to say that in recent years its security forces’ crackdown against foreign militants has helped in reducing cross-border militant infiltration from Afghanistan to the Pakistani tribal areas. The operations have constrained the space for foreign operatives, besides dismantling their infrastructure and hideouts.

The security officials have clearly stated that in a number of operations against al-Qaeda and its foreign operatives, thousands of foreign militants have been killed and hundreds of them have been apprehended. In addition, scores of them were killed during the drone attacks in Pakistani tribal areas, including Tahir Yuldashev, Usman Adil of Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and Mustafa Abu Yazid, Abu Laith al-Libi of al-Qaeda, which has discouraged these operatives from advancing towards Fata. The operatives from Western countries say that they are now afraid to come to Pakistan because of Pak Army’s crackdown and US drone strikes.

The militants, seeking jihad in Afghanistan, are now focusing on the sanctuaries and training camps in its Nuristan and Kunar provinces. These training camps comprise thousands of local Afghan militants and foreign operatives, who are highly motivated to vent out their anger on the occupation forces in Afghanistan.

The recent surge in attacks on the US-Nato troops has made the fact quite evident. These miscreants are also involved in heinous crimes like kidnapping, extortion of money, terrorist activities and drug trafficking within Afghanistan. Sources in Afghanistan’s Ministry of Tribal and Border Affairs confided that these miscreants were launched into Pakistani territory and adjoining areas to create mistrust between Islamabad and Kabul, as friendly relations between the two do not serve the long-term objectives of regional and international players in the region.

Besides, the Arab Spring and conflict in North Africa diverted the focus of foreign fighters from Pakistan to the Middle Eastern and African countries. Al-Qaeda’s foreign affiliates who once travelled to Pakistan are now joining its affiliated groups, such as al-Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Al-Shabab and al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), for which it provides them practical expertise, weapons and communication skills.

The Western intelligence officials also believe that the number of al-Qaeda operatives and its foreign affiliates in Pakistan tribal areas has fallen to the “low hundreds”, as most of them are either on the run or finding sanctuaries in the Middle Eastern and African countries.

Moreover, the Long War Journal cited that hundreds of foreign jihadists poured into northern Mali in recent months to help the armed Islamist groups. Residents of the cities of Timbuktu and Gao, Malian security officials and Islamist commanders all confirmed that there had been a huge influx of foreign fighters over the past few months.

In a scenario where the focus of global militants has been diverted away from the AfPak region and the international community is more concerned about conflicts in Syria, Libya and Somalia, baseless reporting about the flow of foreign operatives into Pakistan merits no serious concern. It is a mere propaganda tactic and a sequel to the international media’s sinister designs to discredit its role in the war on terror.

Pakistan’s security forces are extending remarkable services to reduce the infiltration of foreign militants into its territory. Therefore, Pakistani media and intelligentsia must be taken on board by the concerned authorities to play their role in dispelling such misperceptions.

The writer is a freelance columnist.