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ISIS Trying To Establish Foothold In Pakistan: Ministry Of Interior Tells Senate

The ministry’s statement came as the Senate was briefed about the escalating influence and activities of the TTP following the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and the inaction of the interim Afghan government led by the Taliban against the banned group.

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Terrorists ambush Army vehicles in Poonch
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Pakistan, which is witnessing an influx of Tehreek-i-Taliban terrorists in significant numbers in the restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s tribal districts, is also facing a threat from the Islamic State (ISIS) which is trying to establish a foothold in the country, the Ministry of Interior has said.

The ministry’s statement came as the Senate was briefed about the escalating influence and activities of the TTP following the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and the inaction of the interim Afghan government led by the Taliban against the banned group. The interior ministry, in a written response during question hour, highlighted the TTP’s reorganisation and operational expansion during the peace talks in 2022, which has significantly increased its militant activities.

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“It has given significant rise to its activities and is seeking the support of other militant groups to increase strength and capabilities. It is mostly concentrated in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, especially merged districts, with footprints in Balochistan and trying to activate its network in the country,” it said. It said that the arrival of TTP in significant numbers continues in merged districts, along with the recruitment, training and placing of suicide bombers, is a cause of concern.

The ministry said Daesh — an Arabic acronym for the self-proclaimed Islamic State militant group — was also trying to establish a foothold in Pakistan and resorted to terrorist activities against Shias and religious minority communities to ignite sectarian strife. It said fencing along the western borders of Pakistan had largely been completed to further strengthen the state mechanism of curbing the illegal movement from across the border. However, it pointed out that the two organisations, particularly the TTP, continued to sabotage the fence.

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Pakistan started fencing its porous borders with Afghanis­tan in March 2017, after facing a spate of deadly attacks from Afghanistan-based militant groups in the previous year. The barrier, being built on the 2,640-km border, also known as the Durand Line, is near completion. It passes through rugged mountains, densely forested valleys and narrow rock passages.  

Militants have ramped up their attacks since they revoked a ceasefire with the Pakistani government in November 2022. In the deadliest attack on security forces in the outgoing year, at least 23 Pakistan Army soldiers were martyred and more than 30 troops wounded on Dec 12 after militants belonging to the Tehreek-i-Jihad Pakistan stormed a compound used by the military in Dera Ismail Khan’s Daraban area.

The ministry also said data of 1.45 million registered refugees was updated and expanded through the issuance of smart identity cards. “The cards contain basic information, including biometric data, and are compatible with the local systems,” it said. About dismantling the communication networks to combat online extremism, it said the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority was actively monitoring cyberspace.

“A total number of 16,522 complaints were forwarded to social media platforms for blocking of radical/sectarian, anti-state and terrorist content during 2022,” it said.

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