Amid growing pressure for global response against ISIS after last month’s unfortunate Paris terror attacks, the UN Security Council has unanimously adopted resolution 2249 (2015) calling upon Members States, with the requisite capacity, to take ‘all necessary measures’ against the ISIS to prevent its terrorist acts on territory under its control in Syria and Iraq. Despite the fact that Daesh and its affiliates have been wreaking havoc in Iraq and Syria for many years posing a serious threat to international peace and security, the world community has yet not seriously endeavour to effectively contain this terrorist organisation. However, following the recent Paris attacks, the international efforts to combat ISIS have somehow become quite intensified. Now the world community has seriously started realising the gruesome nature of this Middle Eastern menace.

Being a responsible member of international community, Pakistan not only condemned the ghastly Paris terrorist act in absolute terms but has also offered its cooperation to France in intelligence sharing as well as counter-terrorism efforts. Recently, on the sidelines of Commonwealth Head of Governments Meeting (CHOGM), PM Nawaz Sharif has expressed support for international efforts to counter the threats posed by Daesh and fully implement the UN Security Council sanctions regimes against terrorism.

Reportedly, Pakistan is also being asked to become a part of grand international military alliance to crush ISIS in Iraq and Syria. So Far, Pakistan has not officially responded to any such proposals. However, a few days ago, quoting DG ISPR Asim Bajwa, the media has reported that Pakistan would not send its troops for any mission outside the region. Army spokesman said, “We already have about 182,000 troops deployed along the Afghan border. We are not looking for any involvement outside our region”. He further said, “Daesh is a global threat, with its centre in the Middle East. There is need for a global response to it.”

Pakistan has been pursuing a policy of non-intervention in the Middle East affairs for some time. This was the reason it outrightly refused to become a part of Saudi-led military alliance against the Houthis in Yemen annoying its friendly Gulf States, including the Saudi Arabia. In fact, Pakistan is quite justified in its current policy. In the past, Pakistan has paid a heavy price for taking part in various foreign ‘military expeditions’ in this region. The US and its Western allies left Pakistan in the lurch after achieving their strategic goals in Afghanistan after so-called Afghan Jihad in 1980’s. Consequently, the ‘strategic assets’ of the US in this region eventually became a cumbersome liability for Pakistan.

Similarly, under the so-called Bush Doctrine, Pakistan was compelled to join the War or Terror unquestioningly in Afghanistan following the 9/11 incident. Ever since, despite rendering valuable services for this war, the ‘Major non-Nato ally’ of the US has constantly been asked to ‘do more’. Now Pakistan has become the prime target of the ‘Jihadist’ from all over the world. Ironically, twenty eight different countries of the world actively participated in this war by contributing their troops under the banner of ISAF in Afghanistan but it was only the Pakistan which had to suffer the grave consequences. Therefore, now if Pakistan joins the international military coalition against the ISIS, it will be most vulnerable to backlash in this region in future.

As a matter of fact, Pakistan has been performing its function to fight terrorism, actively and diligently, for a long time. So far, more than sixty thousand Pakistanis have lost their lives in numerous terrorist acts in the country. Besides this, its economy has suffered a loss to the tune of billions of dollars. The US and its allies have pulled out major portion of their troops from Afghanistan. Now they are seeking pacific means to make peace among various Afghan factions. On the other hand, Pakistan has deployed hundreds of thousands of its troops on its western borders primarily to fight terrorism. Presently, Pakistan is a country which is most actively fighting against the terrorists in the world. The Operation Zarb-e-Azb, lunched by Pakistan Armed Forces last year, is the largest extensive military maneuvering against the terrorism in the world in recent times. Since Pakistan is fighting terrorism on its own soil, therefore it would not be fair to ask Pakistan to participate in another military adventure elsewhere in the world.

Before asking Pakistan to join international military campaign against ISIS, the US and its European and Middle Eastern allies should firstly seriously devise a proactive strategy to curb Islamic State terrorism in the region. The actual ground realities are utterly incompatible with tall claims and strong pledges made by the US about fighting terrorism in Syria and Iraq. Presently, the Russia-Turkey confrontation over downing the Russian jet in Turkey has overshadowed the so-called war against ISIS in the Middle East. Instead of exploring ways and means to form a joint axis with Russia against ISIS, the international power players are busy in articulating their strategic goals in this region. It is a known fact that the instant extinction of ISIS is not in line with the broader strategic interests of the US, Turkey and other GCC countries.

At present, keeping in view its national interests, Pakistan can conveniently choose to stay away from the proposed military alliance in the Middle East to combat the Islamic State militants. Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean that Pakistan should not take necessary measures to prevent ISIS from establishing a foothold in the country. Besides numerous defectors of various militant organisations and their splinter groups, there are a large number of followers of defunct sectarian and terrorist outfits. Therefore, Daesh can easily and instantly find a lot of sympathisers, supporters and ideological followers in Pakistan.

In Islamabad, Lal Masjid’s cleric Abdul Aziz Ghazi has once again announced to initiate a movement for the enforcement of so-called Islamic system based on Holy Quran and Sunnah in the country some days ago. After a long pause, the timing of his fresh movement has raised many eyebrows. This cleric has been explicitly extending moral support to Taliban and other extremist militants in Pakistan for a long time. Now, as Pakistan Army has eliminated the militancy and terrorism from the country after successfully launching Operation Zarb-e-Azb, Pakistan cannot afford to allow to such a cunning propagandist to spread confusion and chaos in the country in the name of Islam. These types of suspicious activities going on in the heart of capital city is make a mockery of the entire National Action Plan and government’s repeated assertions to nip the extremism in the bud. Indeed, it is great challenge for our security as well as civilian law enforcement agencies.

The presence of ISIS in Pakistan would be disastrous for it. It will not only provide an opportunity to the remnants of Taliban and defunct outfits to get reunited and reorganised under the umbrella of ISIS but Pakistan has also to face international criticism over this issue. There will be be another unending ‘do more’ mantra asking Pakistan to adopt stringent measures to exhaustively eliminate extremist elements from its very soil. Therefore, in order to effectively enforce all the measures proposed in the NAP, Pakistan has to make the NACTA an active and vibrant supervisory body coordinating the operations of law enforcing agencies and intelligence bodies in the country.

The writer is a lawyer and columnist based in Lahore.

mohsinraza.malik@ymail.com

@MohsinRazaMalik