Pakistan on Thursday confirmed that police have arrested several individuals from major cities for their alleged links to Daish, the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group or IS. The revelation comes amid reports the extremist outfit, operating in Syria and Iraq, is seeking to extend its influence in a region plagued by Islamic militancy.
In recent weeks, material such as stickers, wall-chalking and pamphlets propagating the extremist ideology of the Islamic State have emerged in major Pakistani cities - including Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar.
Police reportedly have arrested people in connection with these activities in different parts of the country, including the capital Islamabad, and seized booklets, computers and other material meant for IS propaganda.
Government officials have been dismissing the wall-chalking and declarations of allegiance to Islamic State by some local militant groups as a ploy to grab headlines rather than a sign of operational links.
However, speaking at a weekly briefing in Islamabad Thursday, foreign ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam confirmed that certain individuals suspected of links to the Islamic State are in custody but she did not reveal their number.
“Police have made arrests in connection with wall-chalking," she said. "The investigations are underway whether it was just a mischief or these people actually belong to Daish [because] sometimes there are elements who would just like to create panic or a situation. So, those investigations are underway about the motives and other aspects. I don’t think those who were arrested, there were any foreigners [among them]."
The spokesperson noted that Pakistan's army has undertaken major anti-militancy operations in recent months in the country’s northwest and it is determined not to allow any terrorist outfit to operate from Pakistani territory.
“Pakistan will not tolerate even the shadow of Daish in Pakistan. So what we are doing at the moment is a comprehensive action against all terrorists,” said Aslam.
Pakistan’s military has been battling an alliance of Sunni Islamist militants commonly known as the Pakistani Taliban entrenched in northwestern tribal areas along the Afghan border.
Last month, in a video message released to media, five commanders of the Pakistani Taliban pledged support to Islamic State while another splinter group, called Jundullah, also declared its allegiance to the Middle Eastern jihadist organization.
A leaked provincial government report last month warned federal authorities that Islamic State has recruited as many as 12,000 fighters inside Pakistan from within banned Sunni groups. Government officials played down the document, saying it was “a routine feedback of intelligence agencies.”
Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan both have al-Qadia-linked militant groups waging insurgencies on both sides of the border.