The Safoora bus attack that killed more than 40 Ismailis was probably the handiwork of IS proxies or affiliates
From the outset, from the first reports that the Islamic State (IS) was present in the country, the government reaction was to promptly go into Ostrich Mode, head firmly in the sand. For months, denial was the order of the day. Senior ministers made a point of ignoring the elephant in the room, almost to the point of farce. As Denialistan gathered heft and traction, the IS was busy pamphleteering in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, badging shops in south Punjab and making itself felt in the retail sector of Islamabad where its symbology started to appear two months ago. Pictures of trucks adorned with the IS symbol have appeared on social media — along with the caveat that the truckers may have been unwitting tools in the hands of the proliferators of the IS message. Militarily, the group was not as active or visible as was its propaganda arm, but it appears to have been in capacity-building mode.
It is now the turn of the Sindh police to have an awakening to the elephant problem. The Inspector General of Sindh Police briefed a parliamentary panel on October 12 saying that the IS had links with banned organisations, such as the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). The Safoora bus attack that killed more than 40 Ismailis was probably the handiwork of IS proxies or affiliates, and it is believed that the planner of that attack has escaped to Syria.
Those suspects now in custody have confessed to having played a part in 37 attacks. A picture is now emerging of the IS as an entity that has a presence across the country, has sympathisers widely spread and prepared to declare their support, and a military capacity that speaks of an active intelligence network to identify targets and competent foot soldiers to deliver death and destruction. This did not happen by osmosis. It happened because it was allowed to happen in a climate of willful neglect and denial. That, in turn, fed into a populace that had been radicalised over the years, meaning that the IS found itself pushing an open door when it came calling. Elephants are not always benign, and the IS elephant has a murderous gleam in its eye.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 14th, 2015.
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