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Origins and Evolution of ISIS and its Impacts on Pakistan


The experts on terrorism trace the genesis of ISIS in the year 2003 when United States and its allied forces invaded Iraq on the pretext of weapons of mass destruction. Combined troops of the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Poland attacked Iraq on March 20, 2003. Invading forces couldn’t find a single weapon of mass destruction in Iraqi arsenal but their ruthless invasion uprooted the social and institutional structure of Iraq then ruled by Saddam Hussain. This chaos in Iraqi society and absence of any legitimate government for long time created a gap which was then filled by extremist organizations like ISIS.

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Current study is done by focusing on the same era that started with US invasion of Iraq during the spring of 2003. During all these years, ISIS originated, evolved and morphed into a monster that with its extreme barbarity, made all other terrorist groups look benign. Though the era under study spanned between 2003 till date, for the sake of historical reference, some facts from distant past that have considerable impact on the making of ISIS and several other extremist groups in the Middle East are briefly mentioned below.

Soon after winning the World War I, without taking the region’s history, ethnic back ground and aspirations of the common people into consideration, Britain and France redrew the map of Middle East. Both European powers with the assent of their third ally Russia dismembered the Ottoman Empire and took newly crafted countries under their influence. Under a secret understanding known as The Skyes-Picot agreement, Britain took the mandate of Iraq, Trans-Jordan, and Palestine while Syria, Lebanon went under French influence.

Local representatives of these territories were neither aware of this agreement nor were they given a right of self determination by winning European Powers. Leila Fawaz believes that this arrangement of Middle East made under The Sykes-Picot agreement laid the foundations of perpetual chaos and militancy in the region.

Gabriel Scheinmann argues that territories were divided without fully understanding the Middle Eastern identities which later resulted into repressive rules in countries like Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Bahrain.

In such turmoil Islamist organizations like The Muslim Brotherhood emerged in 1928 in Egypt and raised the slogans that became pillars of political Islam. The founder of Muslim Brotherhood Hasan Al Banna and his successor Syed Qutb were of the views that all muslims of the world belonged to one community known as Ummah and it was its divine obligation to establish Islamic rule over the world. They also believed that deviance from Islamic principals is the core reason behind Muslim world’s downfall.

With every passing day interests and agendas of Imperial forces grew in the Middle East, and large number of Arab youth turned towards the ideology of Muslim Brotherhood simultaneously. They believed what Brotherhood was offering was the only solution to their all spiritual and worldly problems.

With the creation of Israel on Palestinian lands, enhanced regional conflicts on sectarian grounds and long dictatorships further paved the way for extremism, militancy and political use of Islam in the region.

In 1988, Al-Qaeda was founded by Osama Bin Laden and Ayman Al Zawahiri, both of them were former members of Brotherhood. Al-Qaeda had the same objectives of purging the whole world of western ideas and practices as Brotherhood did.

Al Qaeda continued to fight its war against United States by targeting its interests throughout the world and ultimately launched the biggest terrorist attack on US soil by bringing twin towers down and killing thousands of innocent people. United States waged the War on Terror by attacking Afghanistan in Oct, 2001, where Osama Bin Laden was given sanctuary by The Taliban. In 2003, United States and its allies, on the pretext of weapons of mass destruction, went on to invade Iraq.

A mayhem broke out in the country which eventually provided a favorable environment for the spawning of various armed groups. Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) was one of these militant organizations which eventually gave rise to Islamic State in Iraq (ISI) in 2010 and then Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in 2013. Its leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi is also a former Brotherhood member.

Experts believe that though, The Muslim Brotherhood never endorsed nor indulged in the use of violence to achieve its Pan Islamic goals, deadly violent and terrorist muslim organizations like Al Qaeda and ISIS share the core ideology of caliphate and islamic rule over the world.

Since the main objective of current research is to study ISIS, its origins and Impacts on Pakistan, efforts are made to keep the focus intact on ISIS. Where ever the role of other organizations and their ideologies are discussed, it has been done with a context and reference to ISIS.

Despite sharing core ideologies with other terrorist organizations of the world, ISIS has its own brand of brutality. The lightening speed with which this organization took over the vast swathes of two sovereign countries i.e Iraq and Syria also set it apart from other terrorist organizations of the world. Besides the physical occupation of land ISIS has shown a distinct ability to influence the minds of youth across the world through its online propaganda machinery. During the last several years, many such cases of terrorism occurred in America, Europe and South Asia where the attacker was influenced by ISIS’s rhetoric.

Such incredible credentials of a lethal terrorist organization have made it an important topic of research for International think tanks. Besides efforts to defeat ISIS militarily, world renowned institutions developed to develop counter extremism narratives have done serious efforts to understand the ideology and the working of ISIS. If one goes through the available published material and other research documents on this issue, one may find a wide range of books and research articles that focus on ISIS’s ideology, working and objectives and their possible impacts either on Middle East or on Western world.

Seeing ISIS’s notorious ability to attract recruits and hitting its targets in different continents of the world successfully, there is a fear that it may effortlessly spread its tentacles in Pakistan as well. History of its tribal areas being a hotbed of non state actors and militants belonging to various countries and organizations of the Islamic world gives credence to such fears.

Though Pak Army has already achieved remarkable victories against terrorist outfits and extremist elements across the country, certain spheres still may have a tendency to support and accept the extreme narrative floated by the ISIS.

Despite this situation, not much research work has been done to analyze the possible impacts of ISIS’s ideology on Pakistani society and law and order situation. This research work not only focuses to understand the black history, deadly ideology and lethal tactics of ISIS but also its potential influence over the society and areas of Pakistan.

Ideology of ISIS

Literature Review

ISIS: The State of Terror by Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger provides an authentic account of the initiation and evolution of one of the most barbarous terror outfits of the world, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. This meticulously drafted book not only analyses the extremely violent methods of ISIS, its innovative use of social media and its ability to attract foreign fighters but also suggests practical ways to fight this menace. Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger believe that ISIS emerged from previous attempts to counter terrorism.

Journey of the Jihadist: Inside Muslim Militancy by Fawaz A. Gergez is a journey into the mind of a muslim militant. In order to pen down this unique piece of writing, Gergez, a Lebanese American author travelled across the Arab world and talked to several former and active jihadists. Author has thoroughly studied the evolution of Islamic extremism in Arab world and opened the mindset of a jihadist.

ISIS: A History by Fawad A. Gergez throws a light on sociopolitical, regional and international factors behind the emergence of ISIS as the most notorious terrorist organization of the world. Author argues that US invasion of Iraq in 2003, sectarian conflicts in Iraq and Syria and lack of common man’s representation in decision making paved the way of the establishment of IS in Iraq and Syria.

The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy and Doomsday vision of The Islamic State by William McCants is mainly based on primary sources. By going through letters exchanged between the leadership of Al-Qaeda and Al-Qaeda in Iraq, religious edicts issued by Salafi scholars and the transcripts of the conversations with captured ISIS fighters, author provides a vivid account of ISIS’s past and present and future prospects.

A Theory of ISIS: Political Violence and the Transformation of the Global Order is written by Mauritanian scholar Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou. In this important book to understand Islamic militancy, author asserts that despite having been carved out of Al-Qaeda, ISIS surpassed the ideology of Osama Bin Laden and promoted its own version of terror with a clear focus on establishing a state or the caliphate.

Zarqawi: The New Face of Al-Qaeda by Jean Charles Brisard and Damien Martinez is an account of the life and ideology of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi. The authors have taken an in-depth look into Zarqawi’s network which once ran various terror networks across the Europe. This book calls Zarqawi a terrorist with “atypical” career, who took violence and barbarity to their new heights and set an extremely bloody standard for future terror outfits.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Ties to ISIS and Al-Qaeda: A detailed report prepared by Counter Extremism Project explains the ideological links of Al-Qaeda and ISIS with The Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organization founded in Egypt by by Hasan Al-Banna in 1928. . This piece of research proves that almost all of the central founding figures of these two terror outfits either had been a part of Muslim Brotherhood or were deeply influenced by its ideology.

ISIS: A report by Counter Extremism Project meticulously dissects the genesis and rise of ISIS in Middle East and its influence over other parts of the world. It provides a detailed account of organization’s ideology, leadership hierarchy, working pattern, online presence, violent activities and rhetoric.

The Believer: How an Introvert with a Passion for Religion and Soccer became Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. In this detailed essay by William McCants for Brookings Institution, author takes a deep plunge in the life of current leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. McCants carefully reveals the gradual indoctrination of Al-Baghdadi and his journey from being a student of Islamic education to the head of the most violent terrorist organization of the world till date.

The future of ISIS is a book that is authored by multiple scholars and experts on extremism. In its chapter titled; Islamic State- Khorasan Province, the author Amin Tarzi tells us about how in Jan 2015, some local remnants of Al-Qaeda and other splinter militant groups in Afghanistan announced the formation of local chapter of ISIS named Islamic State – Khorasan Province. Later in the year, ISIS official spokes person announced the expansion of organization’s role to Khorasan, a region ISIS identify as comprising Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Islamic State: The Digital Caliphate by Abdel Bari Atwan is an analytical effort which claims that not Ayman Al-Zawahiri but Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi is the real successor of Osama Bin laden. The author asserts that ISIS poses the most formidable threat to the security of the West and its Middle Eastern allies. One of the main reasons behind this assertion, according to the book, is ISIS’s command over digital and online world.

The Age of Jihad by Patrick CockBurn is the gripping tale of chaos in the Middle East over the course of last 16 years. CockBurn differs with a popular belief and maintains that ISIS is not an outcome of Arab Spring. He asserts that this monster took its time to evolve after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. This book elaborates minute details of continuous geopolitical turmoil in various countries of the Middle East and its impact on the world.

Jihad Academy by Nicholas Henin is an account of a French journalist who was kept hostage for 10 months by the ISIS. Besides bringing dark world of ISIS to the light and criticizing the West’s flawed policies in the Middle East, Henin also suggests practical measures to counter the threat of ISIS.

ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror by Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan is such an authentic piece of research that provides insights into the murky world of ISIS. For their book both the authors relied on first hand accounts of soldiers fighting ISIS, intelligence agents and most importantly Syrian ISIS sympathizers and operatives.

Women of the Caliphate: The Mechanism for Women’s Incorporation into the Islamic State. is research article by Hamoon Khelghat Doost. The author highlights how ISIS manages to incorporate women’s role in various social spheres by building gender segregated institutions. Researcher not only charts out the strict sanctions on women under ISIS but also shows us how at the same time, they are allowed to perform some roles in the fields of education, healthcare and police.

Doctrinal Differences between ISIS and Al Qaeda: An Account of Ideologues A research paper by Aida Arosoaie. The research scholar elaborates that despite following the same religious identity; Salafism, both Al-Qaeda and ISIS drastically differ with each other. The author concludes that these differences include operational methodology, magnitude of violence and organizational goals.

Pakistan Security Report 2018 by Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies. This report finds a 29% decrease in the number of terrorist attacks in Pakistan than in the year 2017. Report provides a valuable region wise data on the number of terrorists attacks, their perpetrators and also discusses strengths and shortcomings of country’s efforts against extremism.

Islamic State Enters Al-Qaeda’s Old Hotbed: Afghanistan and Pakistan research paper by Mona Kanwal Sheikh comprehensively compares the militant movements active in Af-Pak region. She emphasizes that since Tehreek Taliban Pakistan has significantly weakened and due to its further fragmentation TTP fighters are joining IS in the region. According to the paper, Afghan Taliban and Al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan have deep differences with IS chapter of Khorasan Province, hence it may not get a room to operate there freely.

IS Penetration in Afghanistan-Pakistan: Assessment, Impact and Implications: Abdul Basit meticulously charts out the fact that though Afghan Taliban, Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and TTP have strictly rejected the idea of caliphate under Islamic State, the group has significantly made inroads in the region. Basit explains the reasons behind the resilience of IS and its implications in the Af-Pak region.

Challenges and Prospects for Daesh in Afghanistan and its Relations with The Taliban: Hekmatullah Azamy is an Afghan research analyst. In this paper based on first hand information, he discusses the causes of Daesh’s – another name for ISIS, establishment in Afghanistan and measures the prospects of its success in the region.

ISIS: Assessment of Threat for Afghanistan, Pakistan and South and Central Asia; This research effort made by Kashif Mumtaaz takes an overview of the ISIS’s activities and estimates its threat to several countries of the region. The author also suggests measures to counter the bloody ideology of ISIS from spreading in the region.

Daesh in South Asia: Research scholar Maryam Nazir gives some important details about Daesh, ISIS, role in different South Asian countries. The scope of this study is vast and author pertinently observes that sociopolitical fabric of South Asian countries may provide a breeding ground for ISIS operatives.

Pakistan and Terror: The Eye of the Storm is an article penned by by Bruce Riedel. The author take a critical view of Pakistan’s relations with both United States and India. Reidel argues that Jihadist terrorism flourished with the US backed fight against Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. According to this author Indo-Pak tensions over Kashmir issue and subsequently Pak Army’s policy of supporting certain non state actors has also made this region a hotbed of terrorism.

Significance of the Study

Since Sep 11 2001, terrorism and militancy have become important and popular subjects of research worldwide. After the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York city a large number of books and research articles were written on the issue which helped unveil the militant mindset of Al-Qaeda and The Taliban.

In 2013, however, a new terrorist group emerged in Iraq with the name of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. This group had basically evolved from previously Al-Qaeda affiliate group known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq.

New terrorist organization under the leadership of Omer Al-Baghdadi shook the International community to its core by displaying a level of violence that surpassed even Al-Qaeda and The Taliban. Besides suicide attacks, public beheadings and crucifixions became the hallmark of this devilish organization. Within the two years of its formation, besides the announcement of caliphate, ISIS had seized something so remarkable that no other terror group in history had ever achieved; large swaths of territories in the two countries i.e Iraq and Syria. This situation raised a need to know the enemy; the ISIS.

International and regional journalists who covered terrorism and experts on the subject of religious extremism fulfilled this need by writing valuable books and research papers on ISIS ideology and its impacts on the West.

But in early 2015, when ISIS announced its expansion to “Khorasan region”, which according to their understanding, besides Afghanistan and Central Asia also includes areas of modern day Pakistan, situation took another turn.

Soon after the establishment of IS – Khorasan Province chapter in 2015, group started its activities inside Pakistan by targeting Shia and Christian community in the country. Though Government of Pakistan denies the organizational presence of ISIS within the country, terrorist group continues to claim terrorist attacks sporadically.

This situation requires a thorough study of ISIS’s role in the region and its impact on Pakistan. The current study is done keeping the same objective in view. This not only provides an accurate account of ISIS origins and rise in the Middle East but also provides an up to date analysis of its activities within Pakistan. This study and its finding may help common reader, academics and policy makers to build a clear understanding of this ultra extremist monster named ISIS and will also help them devise effective measures to counter it.

This study will also help in deciding about the extent of ISIS influence over already existing Pakistani militant outfits and the level of its penetration in the country.

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Origins and Evolution of ISIS and its Impacts on Pakistan
Introduction The experts on terrorism trace the genesis of ISIS in the year 2003 when United States and its allied forces invaded Iraq on the pretext of weapons of mass destruction. Combined troops of the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Poland attacked Iraq on March 20, 2003. Invading forces couldn’t find a single weapon of mass destruction in Iraqi arsenal but their ruthless invasion uprooted the social and institutional structure of Iraq then ruled by Saddam Hussain. T
2021-11-12 05:10:24
Origins and Evolution of ISIS and its Impacts on Pakistan
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