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Suspect Raising Money for IS Granted Bail in Pakistan

FILE - People protest against an Islamic State-claimed attack on a shrine earlier this year, in Peshawar, Pakistan, Feb. 17, 2017.
FILE - People protest against an Islamic State-claimed attack on a shrine earlier this year, in Peshawar, Pakistan, Feb. 17, 2017.

An anti-terrorism court in Peshawar has granted bail to a suspect allegedly involved in generating funds for the so-called Islamic State in Pakistan’s northwestern region.

Earlier this month security forces arrested Zahid Ullah, a resident of Peshawar on suspicion of raising money and recruiting for Islamic State.

The security forces also retrieved a notebook from the suspect that had details of people who donated to the IS, Pakistani media reported.

Political analyst A. Z. Hilali said this case is another example of how people hesitate to become a witness and testify against the terror culprits for fear of their safety.

“The government should provide witness protection to people so that terror suspects could be brought to justice,” A. Z. Hilali, head of Political Science Department at the Peshawar University told VOA.

“When the terrorists or their facilitators are let go due to lack of evidence, they resume terror activities and prove to be even more fatal than before,” Hilali added.

A report published by the daily Express Tribune last month showed how 116 suspected hardcore militants arrested by the security forces in Pakistan’s Sindh province last year were either exonerated or granted bail by the courts due to lack of evidence, increasing their chances to resume their activities. In 2016, a group of women was also arrested in Karachi for raising funds for IS.

Many security and political analysts have repeatedly emphasized the need to amend the existing laws and introduce fresh legislation at the federal and provincial level in the wake of continuous terrorism in the country.

"There's a dire need for new legislation. The terrorists or their facilitators should be punished at any cost, even if there are no witnesses or there is a lack of evidence," Hilali said.

But Pervez Khattak, the Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province that shares border with Afghanistan, does not agree. “We already have an effective system in place – police, inquiry system and courts are working hand in hand.”

“I am not aware of the details of this particular case, but I have faith in our judiciary system,” Khattak told VOA.

Terror financing remains a challenge for the restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province despite its ongoing efforts against terrorism. The government recently warned its departments to be watchful and make every effort to cut the money supply of banned terror groups such as Tehreek-e-Taliban, Jamat-ul-Ahrar, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Islamic State in the region.

Some analysts say many terror groups are able to generate hefty amounts through individuals and groups collecting money from masses under the guise of religious and charity purposes.

Khattak, however, has a different stance and told VOA, “There are no terror outfits active in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and they are not raising funds. This is totally wrong information.”

Experts say Islamic State does not hold a stronghold or any organized presence in Pakistan, but is trying to pave its way through several affiliates such as Tehreek-e-Taliban and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi who have pledged allegiance to the terror outfit and are conducting attacks on its behalf.

To eradicate Islamic State militants from the semi-autonomous tribal region, Pakistan’s army launched Operation Khyber 4 in July in the Rajgal Valley area of the Khyber Agency. Later in July, Pakistan’s Army claimed the first phase of the operation was completed successfully.

In a recent address to a group of youngsters, Pakistan’s Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa warned them to stay vigilant and cautious of terror groups such as IS that are trying to reach them through modern techniques and cyberspace.

“The educated youth is the prime target of the ISIS and its affiliates, be extra cautious,” Bajwa said.

Last year, Pakistan Intelligence Bureau Chief Aftab Sultan also warned of the emerging threat of the Islamic State that was particularly targeting youth. Sultan further said scores of people from Pakistan had traveled to Syria to join the IS ranks.

Two alleged IS leaders were killed by the security forces in Peshawar in June. In May, Pakistani security forces arrested five suspected IS militants from Karachi who had plans to carry out terror attacks.

In April, a young woman was captured in Lahore, who had pledged allegiance to Islamic State and was planning an attack on the Christian community on Easter eve.

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    Madeeha Anwar

    Madeeha Anwar is a multimedia journalist with Voice of America's Extremism Watch Desk in Washington where she primarily focuses on extremism in the South Asia region.

    Follow Madeeha on Twitter at @MadeehaAnwar