In a world generally worried about violent extremism, it seems to be business as usual for at least some militant groups inside and around Pakistan. There are two kinds that exist—those who target the State, and others who are compliant with the State’s broader strategic goals. However, the implications of both types are dangerous for the country. A glance at some of the terrorism data—none of which is available in Pakistan, where there is a serious shortage of data both in the public and private sector (at least, it is not publicly available)—indicates that the highest number of attacks took place in Balochistan (35) and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province (including 34 in tribal areas, followed by five in Sindh and one in Punjab). Punjab seemed to be the safest province despite the presence of many militant extremist groups. The most violent attacks, including suicide attacks and targeted killing of Shias, were carried out by Islamic State (IS) and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). These two groups harbour a highly acidic sectarian bias, and are expansionist in their perspective.
Military operations, which started in 2014 and continued up to 2017, appear to have curbed the influence and capacity of a lot of terror groups, but the threat remains. This raises the fundamental question of whether it is possible at all to finish off IS and the TTP entirely without doing the same to other groups that the State is relatively comfortable with—a whole range including the Jammat-ud-Dawwa/Lashkar-e-Toiba (JuD/LeT) network, the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and the Ahle Sunnat-wal-Jamaat (ASWJ), which continue to exist in different shapes and forms. These groups have never really attacked the Pakistani state. However, could these be trusted given their kind of ideological framework, which has much in common with what the Al Qaeda and IS parrot?