Balochistan Home Minister Mir Sarfaraz Bugti has dispelled “the impression of the presence of Islamic State (IS) in Balochistan” and said that the crackdown against terrorist is in full swing under Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad – a statement that belies denial and is contradictory in the same breath. How can you deny a group’s presence while conducting operations against it? This is the same line we have been hearing from authorities, the reassuring stance that there is no IS presence in Pakistan and Balochistan, even as the group continues to mow down civilians and carry out attacks.

The targeted killing of the president of the Balochistan Bar Association, Advocate Bilal Anwer Kasi, on August 8 2016, is the first publically claimed act of terror by IS in province, followed soon after by the bombing of Civil Hospital Quetta which killed 93. It was followed by two other major attacks – one on the Police Training Academy in Quetta, and the second on a Sufi shrine near Lasbela known as Shah Noorani. In these three attacks over four months, approximately 250 people were killed and more than 300 were injured. With causalities in the hundreds how can the Balochistan Home Minister claim that there is no IS presence in the province? Even the military in the past, through the then army spokesman Lieutenant General Asim Bajwa admitted that the group was making inroads in the province.

The denial is baffling because it fools no one and it achieves nothing, which makes one wonder whom the Home Minister is reassuring with this false formulation? Is it himself and his government? In either case, repeating this stance is dangerous. The government gets complacent when it convinces itself that the threat at its doorstep really isn’t there. As we have seen in several attacks on universities and police academies across the country, a lack of preparation and proper precaution exasperated the severity of the attack.

It is commendable to say that their presence will not be tolerated and it will be rooted out, but it is more responsible to say that they are present and are being rooted out. The Balochoistan government must face the facts before it can muster a competent challenge to the growing IS threat, instead it is content in burying its head in the sand like an incompetent ostrich.