Karachi: In biggest city of Pakistan, just a day before Valentine’s Day, the main boulevards of the city like M.A. Jinnah Road and Shahra-e-Faisal were flooded with billboards carrying slogan ‘No to Valentine’s Day’, supported by references to the Quran and Hadith.  The hoardings also read, “A message of Tanzeem e Islami: Establishment of Caliphate System.”

Doctor Israr Ahmad was the founder of Tanzeem e Islami (Islamic Organization). This organization wants to establish caliphate in Pakistan. The main office is situated in Lahore. The organization conducts teaching classes for this purpose, which are attended by both men and women. Some of the extremists, arrested recently in Karachi, directly or indirectly belonged to the TI in the past but the Tanzeem claims having no links to them. 

Raja Omer Khatab, head of Counter-Terrorism Unit in Karachi, while talking to News Lens Pakistan, said that now the TI was inclined towards militancy instead of caliphate.

Two types of people are working and preaching from the organization’s platform and invite for the establishment of caliphate but they are not militants. When difference occurred between them, their operatives with extremist mindset for establishing caliphate opted for militancy, added Khatab.

“Remember Daesh (ISIS) is striving for the establishment of caliphate, and trying to establish an independent Islamic state. Like Al-Qaeda, now traces of ISIS are found in Karachi.”

In December 2015, another extraordinary fact about Daesh was unearthed when Raja Umer Khattab claimed at a press conference that a group of 20-member women activists related to Daesh is involved in brainwashing of women, raising funds and arranging marriages of militants. 

According to Khatab, if husband of any woman is associated with a militant group, surely the mindset of his wife is same. 

The presence of Daesh in Pakistan was first traced in Karachi when unknown persons made wall chalking in support of ISIS. Later, incidents occurred like grenade attacks on few private schools in Karachi, attack on the vice chancellor of Jinnah Medical and Dental College and a gun attack on an American citizen Debra.  On May 13, 2015, 45 people were killed in shooting at a bus of Ismaili Community in Safoora Goth area of Karachi. Flyers of ISIS were recovered from all these places.

Pakistan’s Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan denied the presence of ISIS. As per his view some extremist organizations are using the name of ISIS.

Author of the book “Military Inc.” and defense analyst, Dr Ayesha told News Lens Pakistan while talking on telephone that being a nuclear state, admitting ISIS presence could pose a threat to Pakistan’s nuclear installation perhaps that is why the government is taking steps carefully.

Dr Ayesha said that according to an estimate around 600 to 700 hundred people from Pakistan have gone to Syria for fighting. “There are many people who go to Iraq and Syria for pilgrimage, so we did not know how many of them change their mind or who has passion for jihad.”

In contrast to this, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said that according to the investigation so far nearly a hundred of people across the country have gone to Iraq and Syria to join ISIS.

Pakistan’s daily English news paper The Express Tribune said in a report that in December 2015, three women from Lahore took more than a dozen of children to Syria to join ISIS. The cases for kidnapping were registered at Township, Wahdat Colony and Hanjarwal police stations.

Director of Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies Amir Rana told News Lens Pakistan that joining of women to ISIS is not a new phenomenon.

“If a person of any house is involved in extremism, it is essential for women of the family to work for his cause.” However, the number of the women who joined extremist groups is not too much.

Allegedly, women who went to Syria included Bhusra Cheema known as Haleema, and Farhana, who had received religious education from Al-Huda International Islamic Institute. It has been observed that the women associated with this institution are not only living in Pakistan but also aboard.

In December 2015, A Pakistani-American Rizwan Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik entered Inland Regional Centre and opened fire on handicapped persons leaving 14 people dead and 21 injured. Tashfeen had also studied at Al-Huda Foundation for 18 months.

A research scholar at Al-Huda Foundation, on condition of anonymity, told News Lens Pakistan that Al-Huda only works to educate women about religious studies and interpretations. It does not teach violence or anything related to politics, he added.

According to statistics, around 30 million persons are enrolled in madaris (religious seminaries) working under Wafaqul Madaris (Federation of boards of religious seminaries) of which one third are girls. The government under National Action Plan against extremism and terrorism made registration of all seminaries compulsory and also announced that religious schools involved in extremism would be closed.

While talking to News Lens Pakistan telephonically, Principal of Jamia Binori Town Mufti Naeemur Rehman said that if madaris are involved in terrorism, the government should deploy heavy contingent of security forces around them. Why it deploys all security at universities? “They screen each and every student of madrasa but don’t apply the same method for colleges and universities’ students.” It’s a baseless propaganda against madaris has nothing to do with the fact.

Religious inclination is increasing in women of Karachi due to which it influences their life-style and clothing. Every week, various organizations hold religious gatherings with differnt titled like ‘Zikr’ and ‘Mehfil’ at several places.

Raja Umar Khattab said that women, associated with the extremist groups, attend such congregations and teach religion. They gradually influence minds of the women participants and then invite them to join the force, he added.

There were some university graduates involved in the attack on Ismaili community’s bus.  The investigations helped investigators understand that the extremism also exists in the modern schools.

News Lens Pakistan talked to various students, studying at universities in Karachi.

A student, Ayesha said that religious trend has increased among the students. They are religious minded but they don’t like extremism. “Islam says neither to kill anyone nor to spread hatred. We may preach anyone to attract him towards religion but cannot force him,” said Ayesha.

Another student Sara said that active extremist organizations are using the name of religion and killing innocent people which is wrong as Islam does not allow this.

In Karachi where a large number of billboards of various famous brands are prominent, one can see big advertising hoardings of women’s abaya and scarf on various roads. Recently, trend of taking abaya and headscarf rapidly grew in Karachi.

A women leader of Jamaat e Islami Sindh Afshan Naveed told News Lens Pakistan that apparently Abaya and Scarf culture had flourished with religious congregations. She says that that she also attends these classes 10 to 12 times in a month and also invites the women in her social network to these gatherings.

Intelligence officials believe that ISIS women are present across the country including Punjab; however, it seems that there is lack of coordination between them.

Officer Khattab said that according to information, the influence of these women is limited only to particulars areas of Karachi like Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Gulistan-e-Johar, Sarjani Town, North Karachi and Defense Society. 

Despite credible reports about women activists’ gatherings, Khatab claimed that not such meetings are held now.

In the recent past, there are also several Islamic organizations which have been linked to ISIS and other extremist groups. Kahlid Yusuf, an accused of Safoora Bus Attack revealed during interrogation that his wife Naheed runs an organization ‘Al-Zikra’ which has no office, said Khatab. He said that a large number of women associated to ISIS including Naheed are still at large

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