In the wake of the horrific Paris attacks the world has been once again forced to confront the Daesh question – how dangerous are they, how wide is their influence, and how do we stop them. In that vein the Foreign Office has ruled out the presence of Islamic State (IS) in the country, saying no one could be allowed to maintain link with the terrorist organization from Pakistani soil. As a statement of resolve, the Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry’s views – given in an interview on Sunday – are acceptable and carry the tone that the situation demands. Yet, as a statement of fact, the interview is not only incorrect but misleading and ultimately harmful.

The Islamic State is present in Pakistan; there can be no doubt about this. The Safoora Goth attack, in which 35 people lost their lives, is believed by investigating authorities to be carried out by local operatives of IS. The link between the attack and the group has been acknowledged by both government and military personal; how can Aizaz Ahmed claim that it doesn’t exist. Much more tangible evidence of the group’s presence has been found too. Wall chalking bearing the group’s name have appeared in Peshawar and nearby cities, propaganda pamphlets – in Pashto and Dari - with the group’s logo have been found in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and recruiters for the group have been arrested in Lahore. The group may not be as influential as it is in other countries like Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Libya, and it may be way down in the pecking order of militants group in Pakistan, but it is present – denial will only lead to a false sense of security.

Creating a false sense of security seems to be the government’s policy regarding the group. Downplaying the IS threat has been the default response of the government to any news about the group’s activities in Pakistan, whatever the merit or veracity of the report. Trying to avoid panic and maintaining investor confidence are important goals, but they must not come at the price of security loophole. By denying IS’ presence in Pakistan the government is compromising vigilance. The law enforcement, the government, the secure agencies and even the common man will keep a lookout for other threats, believing the Islamic State is a distant menace, allowing the group to extend even further.

The hierarchy of terrorist organizations in the region – headed by the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda – is crumbling. Factions and splinter groups are appearing faster than they can be tackled. The only symbol of constancy is the Islamic State, whose stock has only gone higher with such a high-profile attack. Now is the time to be vigilant.