Knock, Knock, Knock :  ISIS Enters Lahore

By bombing Lahore on the occasion of  the Easter festivities the ISIS has announced its arrival in Lahore. A militant Islamic outfit, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar,  claimed responsibility for the murderous mayhem in the Gulshan-e-Iqbal park in Lahore during the Easter celebrations in which nearly 72  persons, mostly Christians,  were killed. The number of the injured is reported to be around  300 and the death toll is expected to rise further, according to a local official. A journalist working with the television channel Geo News posted a facsimile of the  ID card of the suicide bomber found on the spot.

The attack at Lahore conveyed a loud message by  jihadis. While the Pakistan government  insisted that Christians were not the target, the JuA countered that statement. Let us not forget that the ISIS too has been targeting Christians largely with the intention of sending a message that Islam is superior to Christianity. This is a part of their propaganda for uniting the Islamic world.

The Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (also known as JuA) is a notorious jihadi group which broke away from the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) more than one and a half-year ago.  It  had pledged support to the ISIS in 2014 after Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed the establishment of the caliphate. The ideology of the JuA is the same as that of  the ISIS. Previously it had claimed several bombings including the attack in Charsadda on 7th March, 2016,   to avenge the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri – the slayer of  Salman Taseer, the former Governor of Punjab.  Prima facie the dastardly attack on Christians at  Lahore on Sunday was a clear indicator of the troubled times ahead for Pakistan’s tiny minority of Christians. In the aftermath of Lahore bombings the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has cancelled his visit to the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile the  Pakistani Army and Rangers have been directed to  conduct operations across Punjab to  locate and target the militants  and  their facilitators. According to the Pakistani newspaper, The Dawn, the decision was taken during a high-level military huddle, chaired by the Army chief. The crackdown would give paramilitary Rangers extraordinary powers to conduct raids and interrogate suspects similar to those the Rangers have used for more than two years in the  troubled city of  Karachi  a senior security official based in Lahore told Reuters on condition of anonymity.    A number of “suspected terrorists and facilitators” were arrested during the five raids which were conducted in Lahore, Faisalabad and Multan after the Lahore suicide explosion, according to reliable sources .

The Jamaat-ul Ahrar has  made it clear in no uncertain terms  that their  target  were Christians.  According to Ehsanullah Ehsan, a spokesman of  the JuA, “We want to send this message to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that we have entered Lahore. He can do what he wants, but he won’t be able to stop us. Our suicide bombers will continue these attacks.”    Jamaat-ul-Ahrar has a history of  violence and bloodshed.  Some instances of jihadi attacks are given below.

  • On 2nd  November 2014,  the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan had claimed responsibility for the attack on  a Pakistani Post  at  Wagah border by making  a  phone call to The Dawn   newspaper.  He claimed that the attack  was  meant to avenge the killing of innocent people in North Waziristan by the Pakistani army
  • The Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed responsibility  on 7th November, 2014, for twin bombings that killed at least six members of  the Peace Committee  in  Chinari village of  Mohmand Agency.
  • On 21 November 2014, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed responsibility for a grenade attack on a camp of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement  (MQM) in Orangi  area of Karachi injuring  50  persons.
  • Last year on 15 March 2015, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed responsibility for twin bombings of  churches during Sunday service at Youhanabad town of Lahore. In the two bombings at   least 15 Christians were killed and seventy were wounded in the attacks.
JuA Lahore Bombing
Ehsanullah Ahsan, spokesman for terrorist organization Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, making a press release

The  ultimate goal  of the JuA  is to  create an Islamic State across AfPak (region spanning across Afghanistan & Pakistan) and Pakistan.  The jihadi group is inspired by the  ideology of the Islamic State and remains focused  on the  brutal strategies practiced by  al-Baghdadi. Its leader is Omar Khalid Khorasani who is a rabid kaffir-hater and was once close to the Al Qaeda leadership.  Impressed by the  creation of caliphate presided over by al-Baghdadi,  the group changed its affiliation to the ISIS.  Khorasani is  reported to be working on a plan to implement the radical ideology  across Pakistan. The task of establishing liaison with the Islamic State had been accomplished by Maulana Qasim Khorasani,  the former head of JuA.

When the new jihadi faction was formed, Khorasani had said that the Tehrik-e-Taliban  Pakistan had become very indisciplined. Due to factional fighting within the Pakistan Taliban and ideological differences, we have decided to form the JuA, Khorasani had also said. Khorasani had always been an ideologically driven man. However, many had doubted whether the JuA could get close to the ISIS considering Khorasani’s close association with the al-Qaeda. Khorasani however realised that the al-Qaeda was a fading outfit and the sooner he pledged support to the ISIS, the better it would be.

The present chief of the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, Omar Khalid  Khorasani, had always argued that the fight should be to install an Islamic state. He was clearly unhappy with the manner in which the Pakistan Taliban was fighting the battle. He felt that the Pakistan Taliban was more interested in gaining control over the tribal belts rather than install an Islamic state in Pakistan. Khorasani had often urged the Pakistan Taliban to set up an Islamic state and said that the emergence of the same in the region must commence  from Pakistan before spreading to the rest of Asia.

The Lahore attack  is also a wake up call to Bharat. Khorasani  has  been saying that the rise of the Islamic State beginning  from  Pakistan  should  engulf the whole of Asia.  The  attack conveys a chilling warning to the security agencies of Bharat not to lower their guard and reinvent themselves to meet this Islamic challenge.

About the Author

Ram Kumar Ohri
IPS ( Retd I.G./Arunachal Pradesh) Shri R.K.Ohri, is a retired IPS officer who was Inspector General of Police in Arunachal Pradesh. He has taught in Internal Security Academy of CRPF and in Bureau of Police Research and Development. He was also Secretary of Association of Retired IPS officers. He has authored several books including 'The Bell Tolls, Tomorrows Truncated India'.