The rise of Daesh in Afghanistan is raising alarm in Pakistan, say experts

Pakistani counterterrorism officials are concerned about the spillover of Daesh into their country from Eastern Afghanistan. (AP photo)
Updated 01 April 2018
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The rise of Daesh in Afghanistan is raising alarm in Pakistan, say experts

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani counterterrorism officials are concerned about the spillover of Daesh into their country from eastern Afghanistan and will discuss it at a three-day conference from Tuesday.
The National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) is organizing the International Counter Terrorism Forum, which aims to highlight Pakistan’s efforts and achievements in countering terrorism and extremism before the international community. But it will also focus on the possibility of the spillover of Daesh into the country.
Officials and analysts in Pakistan do not rule out the threat of Daesh but insist there is no organized presence of the group in the country.
Dr. Mohammed Shoaib Suddle, former head of the Intelligence Bureau, Pakistan’s premier civilian intelligence agency, argues that elements from the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) are now part of Daesh in the region.
“The most radicalized elements within the TTP prefer Daesh. Some others switched loyalties to Daesh as the outfit is richer than other groups,” Suddle told Arab News on Saturday. “They have no organized presence in Pakistan, but they are are scattered,” he said.
Defense expert Said Nazeer Mohmand thinks Daesh has facilitators, abettors and financiers in Pakistan but the group’s “suicide bombers and fighters” come from Afghanistan and carry out attacks in the country.
“Pakistan still faces the threat of Daesh but Afghanistan is the prime location of the group where its fighters get arms and training,” Mohmand, a retired brigadier of the Pakistan Army, told Arab News.
He also pointed to the “suspicions” in Afghanistan about the emergence of Daesh in the country and referred to the statements of former President Hamid Karzai, who a number of times has accused the “US of enabling Daesh presence in Afghanistan.” The US has denied the charges.
“There is a narrative in Afghanistan that Daesh is used against the Taliban, and also to create panic in Central Asian states and also Russia,” Mohmand said. He said the strategic direction of Daesh toward Pakistan is less than to the Central Asian states, and that is why the group’s fighters had been involved in attacks in northern Afghanistan in recent months. He observed Daesh could have up to 3,000 sympathizers in Pakistan in view of their attacks in the country.
Daesh has carried out dozens of attacks in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan provinces. However, sometimes it has claimed responsibilities in Sindh province as well, for instance when it said it was behind the Sehwan Shrine bombing in February 2017, which had killed nearly 90 people and injured about 300 others.
NACTA Coordinator Ihsan Ghani said Tuesday’s conference is aimed at bringing together leading international and Pakistani experts, scholars, practitioners, think-tanks and opinion-makers in counter-extremism and counter-terrorism.
It will deliberate on the current situation and future challenges and responses, he said, adding that the forum will also engage diplomats, government officials, parliamentarians, politicians, UN agencies, international organizations, the media, civil society and the world community at large.
American and Afghan officials, as well as the Afghan Taliban, believe that mostly Pakistani nationals are part of Daesh in Afghanistan. The Daesh leadership had chosen Hafiz Saeed Khan, the former TTP chief for Pakistan’s Orakzai tribal region, as the first leader for the so-called Khorasan region.
“These IS-K (Islamic State-Khorasan) fighters are primarily Pakistani Pashtun,” said Gen. John Nicholson, commander of the US Forces in Afghanistan. “They have another segment of Islamic Movement Uzbekistan. And then there’s probably 10 percent that’s from a variety of sources around the world,” he said on March 22 in a statement, which also confirmed that the Afghan Special Security Forces and US Special Operators disrupted IS-K’s capacity to use foreign fighters to terrorize the Afghan people in northern Afghanistan.
Nangarhar’s Haska Mena district is thought to be where Daesh emerged, the place where the Afghan Taliban’s Abdul Khaliq, also known as Omar among the circles of the militants, laid the foundation of the group, according to Afghan analyst Najam Burhani, who belongs to the same area. Khaliq, who later enjoyed the support of Pakistani militants from the Khyber agency, had been involved in clashes with the Taliban fighters, Burhani told Arab News.


Scotland will prepare for a second independence vote regardless of UK: FM Nicola Sturgeon

Updated 35 min 52 sec ago
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Scotland will prepare for a second independence vote regardless of UK: FM Nicola Sturgeon

  • Scotland will start preparing for independence referendum before May 2021 without permission from Westminster
  • London's approval, however, would eventually be necessary

EDINBURGH: Scotland will start preparing for an independence referendum before May 2021 without permission from London, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Wednesday.
Scotland, part of the United Kingdom for more than 300 years, rejected independence by 10 percentage points in a 2014 referendum. But differences over Brexit have strained relations with England and the British government in London.
"A choice between Brexit and a future for Scotland as an independent European nation should be offered in the lifetime of this parliament," Sturgeon told Scotland's devolved parliament.
She said a devolved parliament bill would be drawn up before the end of 2019, and that Scotland did not need permission at this stage from London.
London's approval, however, would eventually be necessary "to put beyond doubt or challenge our ability to apply the bill to an independence referendum," she said.
The United Kingdom voted 52-48 to leave the EU in a 2016 referendum, but while Wales and England vote to leave, Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to stay.
In the campaign for the 2014 independence referendum, unionists said that the only way for Scotland to stay in the EU was to remain within the United Kingdom. The Scottish National Party (SNP), which controls the devolved parliament in Edinburgh, says that a second referendum is justified as Scotland is now being dragged out of the bloc against its will.
With most Scots unhappy at Brexit, Sturgeon is under pressure from independence supporters to offer a clear way forward in the quest to break from the United Kingdom.
Britain is mired in political chaos and it is still unclear whether, when or even if it will leave the European Union.
John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University and Britain's leading polling expert, said Sturgeon was keeping her own troops happy while leaving her options open.
She probably has until October or November of 2020 to hold a new vote once Brexit happens, he said.
Since Scots rejected independence 55-45 percent in 2014, polls show that support has changed little. Grassroots supporters will launch a new campaign this week before the SNP spring conference this weekend.
"I think she was implicitly acknowledging that while it might be impossible (to get permission) out of the current (UK) parliament, it might be a lot easier if we get a general election between now and the end of the year, and the SNP may well find itself in the kingmaker role," Curtice told Reuters.
Her address took a noticeably conciliatory tone.
"The question that confronts us now is this: if the status quo is not fit for purpose - and I know even some of the most committed believers in the union find it hard to argue that it is - how do we fix it?" she said.
Those who want to maintain the United Kingdom argue that Brexit has made no difference to how Scots feel, and the secession vote should not be repeated.
"Nicola Sturgeon continues to press for divisive constitutional change when it is clear that most people in Scotland do not want another independence referendum," said David Mundell, Britain's Scotland minister.
Sturgeon argued that leaving the world's largest trading bloc endangers Britain and Scotland's economic well-being.
"We face being forced to the margins, sidelined within a UK that is itself increasingly sidelined on the international stage. Independence by contrast would allow us to protect our place in Europe."