By Andaleeb Rizvi
It was the year 2011; pro-Shia TV channels and wire services were abuzz with claims about US and Saudi Arabia funding and arming anti-Shia groups all over the Middle East. During the same period, there were several Shia uprisings in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and of course Iraq and Syria.
The Pakistani government too continued to face the onslaught of anti-Shia groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Jondullah, Sipah-e-Sahaba, Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamat, and Lashkar-e-Islam. Videos of men beheading Shias in Quetta spread like wildfire. Images of amputated, shot, mutilated bodies of Shias were shared on social media and hence some Shia news services were ultimately blocked by the Pakistani state. However, interestingly, the state did not take any across-the-board measures to wipe out the hate-spreading mosques, madarsas, or even websites in the country.
A lull was witnessed after the mid of 2012, that many argue was not because the militants were not active, but because information dissipation tools were limited, and concentration of the powers that be were shifted to the Middle East. It was during the same period that talk of lifting sanctions on Iran started with Oman working as the mediator, despite which, countering Iran remained the major focus for not just Saudi Arabia, but the US and Israel both. And though the Saudi, Qatari, Kuwaiti, Emirati, Bahraini, along with the US continued to fund Sunni militant organisations, Iran kept facing sanctions (under the garb of nuclear enrichment) for doing the same for the scattered and numbered Shia organisations and their supporters across the globe.
The temporary interval in the militancy of the extremist Sunnis, and the uprisings in Middle East of the Shia factions provided the much needed break the US was seeking for withdrawing forces from Afghanistan and Iraq simultaneously. But, as usual, just like the Cold War plans backfired with transitioning of militants from Mujahideen to Taliban and al Qaeda, provision of sophisticated weapons to gorilla fighters in Iraq and Syria rebounded.
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Repercussions were not immediately visible, as Assad’s Shia regime in Syria and Maliki of Dawa Party in Iraq continued to threaten the Sunni majority region keeping the countering of their growing power a priority. This “lapse” in the foresightedness of the global powers allowed for the corporatisation of militancy.
Currently, the biggest terror network is the Islamic State or commonly Isis, Isil, Daesh, to name a few pseudonyms. With so many terror networks all around, each has to resort to some particular method to remain relevant within the global context. Earlier, the militants had gradually resorted to media publicity and tactics of claiming responsibility for some gruesome attacks. With time, the focus shifted to being more brutal and blatant, accompanied by social media campaigns and selling of information to reporters, news channels and alternative sources. Videos and images of slaughter and helplessness of the common people were also posted all over social media. Let’s also not forget Colonel Gaddafi by end-2011, who was brutally murdered by rebels who were careful enough to videotape the incident. Such things further increased the pool of terror and gave far more credibility and exposure to the militants as the powerful men able to bring down entire countries.
The need for weapons and money for counter terror activities went higher, for which deals with private security companies spiked manifolds. Many US private security companies sold and continue to sell equipment like bomb detectors, bomb disposal devices, etc, to countries facing constant terrorism. Nonetheless, the power of those who threaten the lives of the common folks living in unfortified and un-barricaded abodes rises.
While funding for Taliban and al Qaeda was mostly from growing poppy and selling hashish, the newer versions of corporate militants started investing in bomb-making, weapons smuggling, and grabbing control of agricultural land, infrastructure, hydro thermal power plants, and of course oil fields.
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The stakeholders are aplenty in this matter, including States that are known for sponsoring militancy and milking the ‘peace loving’ ‘gun toters’ of the world that saw World War I a century ago.
Pakistan needs to be careful about the mushrooming threat of Daesh. Instead of letting the militants establish a South Asian wing, which would be easy knowing the existing pool of extremists, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan must take strong action. It is no longer a money making venture for us and the stakes are much higher than a few million dollars.
The writer is a The News business desk member and tweets @AndaleebRizvi
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