ISLAMABAD: It has been almost nine months now that Saudi Arabia has detained one of popular Pakistani preacher of Salfi school of thought – Talibur Rehman Rashidi – along with four others to investigate any of his alleged links to Daesh (ISIS), a close relative of the cleric told Truth Tracker.

The detention, reported in later half of 2016, was followed by the death of preacher Talib’s young son – Osama – in an American drone strike at Daesh camps in mid June 2016.  The drone strike had hit Hafiz Said Khan Orakzai, then head of Daesh chapter of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and many other Daesh soldiers including Osama.

“Following the death of Osama in the drone strike, the family came to know from Saudi Arabia about his detention,” a close relative of Talib told Truth Tracker (TT), adding, “Saudi authorities have detained preacher Talib, who was a frequent visitor to the Kingdom, when he was with his younger brother Toseefur Rehman and his teenage son.” Talib was informed about his son’s fate during this visit to Saudia Arabia prior to his detention. The preacher is originally based in capital city of Islamabad and has led Friday prayers in a famous Islamic Center in Rawalpindi for many years.

“Talib is only a preacher and nothing else. He has condemned Daesh many times for her acts and he had deplored his son’s affiliation to that extreme organisation,” the relative said. The relative revealed that some elements in Pakistan had trapped Osama, who joined Daesh and left Pakistan quietly. “Earlier, we were sympathising with Daesh and liking its objective to set up one Islamic caliph-ship in the whole world but after seeing their acts of killing innocent people we began to speak against the group,” the relative, who is also a preacher, said, adding, “Daesh elements are misleading our youth in Pakistan.”

The preacher has been long associated with the academic wing of Jamiat Ahle-Hadith, a Salfi group with, more than a decade of, alliance with the ruling party of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz. “We have asked Saudi authorities to explain this detention hut there is no reply yet,” a senior leader of the party told TT. The group’s bigwigs have visited Saudi Arabia in this connection for a number of times.

This tale of youth getting impressed and joining Daesh is not new in Pakistan. Home Department of the largest populated province of Pakistan in December 2015 in a circular with subject ‘Recruitment of Pakistan boys and Afghan Refugees by Daesh (ISIS)’ highlights, “Various militant groups including Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (formerly aligned with Al-Qaeda), Turkistan Islamic Movement, Uzbek and Chechen Militias in Afghanistan, Ahrarul Hind, Jamaatul Ahrar and Lashkar e Jhangvi have joined hands with ISIS.” It further discloses that an important commander of Afghan Taliban Maulana Abdul Rauf has also joined ISIS and is spending lavishly on the organisation’s militant activities.

The circular further states that ISIS is recruiting Pakistani youth and Afghan refugees on a monthly salary ranging from Rs 30,000 to Rs 50,000. In this regard, it has recruited 40/50 boys from Afghan Refugees’ Camp in Shamshato, KP and sent them to Afghanistan for military training. In Pakistan, Daesh recruitment of youth is largely done from the capital city of Islamabad and surrounding.

A week ago, Nasir Durrani, inspector general of Khyber Paktunkhwah province, told the media that Daesh was making inroads in Pakistan trough the border with Afghanistan. “They are coming from the porous border and attacking Pakistan. We are after them and their facilitators,” he said.

Late in year 2016, Lt. Gen. Asim Bajwa, the former spokesperson of the Pakistan Army, claimed that Daesh had a presence in the country and more than 300 people were arrested in connection to Daesh in the several months. He noted that the authorities were very vigilant and thwarted a number of attacks too.

Aftab Sultan, director general of the Intelligence Bureau of Pakistan has also told the Senate’s Standing Committee on Interior a year ago, Daesh was emerging as a threat in Pakistan because several militant groups, such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan, were sympathetic to it.

Punjab’s Law Minister Rana Sanuallah has also publicly stated that over 100 Pakistanis from Punjab province had left the country to join Daesh. In December 2014, in a video message on social media, female students from a Deoband seminary linked to Lal Masjid in Islamabad had praised Daesh.

Pakistani security forces have launched a new offensive titled Operation Rad-ul-Fassad (Operation to Eliminate Violence and Anarchy) against violent extremist groups against militant groups. The latest offensives is orchestrated following a terrible suicide attack on Pakistan’s most famous shrine of saint Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan, province of Sindh. The shrine, named after the Sufi saint, was filled with hundreds of people who had come to watch an evening ritual known as Dhamaal, featuring traditional dancing which sends performers into states of ecstasy. At least 90 people were killed and 300 people were injured in this gruesome suicide bomb attack on February.

Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack within hours of its occurrence.

Earlier, suicide bombers slaughtered nearly 50 people at another Sufi place of worship, the shrine of Saint Shah Noorani, in Balochistan province in on November 12, 2016. Jamaatul Ahrar (JuA), a group comprising militant factions from Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), claimed responsibility for Shah Noorani and other recent attacks on public places and security forces. According to security analysts, JuA is believed to be linked to Daesh.

The JuA emerged in Pakistan after the National Action Plan (NAP) to counter terror groups mainly TTP and its allies. The JuA was formed by those militants who refused to enter dialogue with the government and lay down arms.

However, Pakistani government, Punjab law minister, and Punjab Inspector General Police Mushtaq Sukhera, talking to Truth Tracker for a number of times, have denied any organised presence of Daesh in Pakistan. They take these cases steps of individuals after getting impressed from Daesh on social media and Internet.

“Recent attacks are coordinated efforts of terrorist groups with greater unity under the banner of Daesh with lead role of JuA in Pakistan,” Tariq Pervez, former head of the National Counterterrorism Authority (NACTA) told Truth Tracker.

Previously, such groups active in Pakistan were connected to Al-Qaeda, Pervez added. Now they are working for IS, he said.

Daesh, basically, an extreme version of the Salfi school of thought in Islam which aims to make the whole world one Muslim state, surfaced in Pakistan in 2014, Pervez said.

It emerged in Pakistan via social media and later its flags and pamphlets were seen in different parts of Pakistan from time to time.

Pakistan officially banned Daesh a couple of years ago. According to a notification of Interior Ministry, Daesh is not to be allowed to operate in Pakistan at all.

Security experts blame lack of political will in a counter narrative providing ground to such groups to nurture.

“The JuA is a breakaway faction of TTP operating through Afghanistan, with the possibility of getting funding from different “enemy” sources of Pakistan to de-stabilize the country,”. Khawaja Khalid Farooq, another former head of NACTA, told TT. He added there are reports that many other TTP splinter factions are allying with the JuA and this unity is threat to Pakistan.

The JuA, terror group, in its latest online video message after Lahore attack on February 13, has further warned Pakistan of future attacks targeting state forces and installations.

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