Pakistan: ISIS Plans Terrorist Campaign against Christians by Lawrence A. Franklin

The wave of anti-Christian attacks will allegedly include Pakistan’s Christian churches, schools, and hospitals. Few Pakistanis will shed a tear for people who do not, in their eyes, represent Pakistan’s Islamic values. The Pakistani government and military have warned the nation’s tiny Christian minority that Islamic terrorist groups plan to target Christian religious institutions in the near future. The wave of anti-Christian attacks will allegedly include Pakistan’s Christian churches, schools, and hospitals. The warning issued by Pakistan’s leading generals represents an extraordinary, positive development in the military’s relationship with minorities in general and with Christians in particular. Their warming relationship appears to be a calculated political move to complement the military leadership’s ongoing offensive against the terrorist havens in the northwestern corner of the country. Emissaries of the most powerful Pakistani generals and the Ministry of Interior have apparently personally warned Christian clerics that the assault will first be launched in the country’s northwest region of Khyber Paktunkhwa.[1] This region abuts the Pushtun-dominated provinces of Afghanistan where Pakistan’s Tehrik-e-Taliban is a potent force. According to the warnings, the planned attacks against Christian communities in Pakistan will be carried out by some splinter groups that formerly belonged to the Pakistani Taliban. According to sources in the area, these splinter groups have already forged an alliance with the more extremist and brutal Islamic State (ISIS) cells that have already entered Pakistan. The former Pakistani Taliban Commander, Hafiz Saeed Khan, is said to have pledged an oath of allegiance in January to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.[2] Several other Pakistani Taliban groups have reportedly also agreed to join up. In addition, Ahmed Marwat, a.k.a. Farhad Marwat, commander of Pakistan’s Jundallah terrorist organization, specifically threatened in June that “the Jundallah will attack kafir Shi’ites, Ismailis and Christians.”[3] Marwat met with Islamic State representatives in November 2014. Later the same month, he took responsibility for attacking aid workers in Quetta, Pakistan, and labeled the volunteers “Yahood o Nasara”: “Jews and Christians.” The Jundallah group, reputedly the Islamic State’s most potent ally in Pakistan, claimed responsibility for the twin-suicide bombings against All Saints Church in Peshawar on September 22, 2014.[4] It also probably intends to initiate more anti-Christian atrocities. One Christian cleric explained that the anti-Christian strategy by Islamic terrorists might be a bitter response to the effectiveness of the Pakistani Army’s ongoing offensive — a campaign that targeted Islamist jihadists in their hideouts in the northwest. Another Christian cleric complimented Pakistan’s military leaders for the ongoing drive to subdue the Pakistani Taliban and several smaller jihadi groups in the far northwest, especially in North Waziristan. The Pakistani generals most responsible for the planning and execution of this anti-terrorist offensive include Army Chief of Staff General Raheel Sharif; Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) chief General Rizwan Akhtar, and the commander of Pakistan’s Army Rangers, General Bilal Akbar. Sources claim that these three generals have forged an aggressive battle plan with which to roll back extremist Muslim jihadists threatening Islamabad’s sovereign control over the country. This triad has apparently also purged the Pakistani Army officer corps of anyone suspected of sympathizing with Islamic terrorist factions. Shortly after assuming command of the Pakistani Army, General Sharif vowed that “eradicate the last sanctuary of Islamic militants in the tribal regions” of Pakistan’s northwest.[5] These tribal regions include the Federal Administered Tribal Areas, as well as North and South Waziristan. The campaign against terrorist havens in Pakistan’s northwest, launched on June 14, 2014, has already killed more than 3000 militants, according to Army headquarters.[6] In August 2014, Pakistani Air Force planes bombed what was said to be the last sanctuary of terrorists in North Waziristan, the thickly forested Shawal. Some observers speculate that it was the success of this offensive that elicited the attack by terrorists on the Public School Compound in Peshawar on December 16, 2014, which killed 132 boys and 9 members of the staff. Lending credence to this revenge-attack theory was a phone call from Taliban spokesman Mohammad Umar Khorasani to the local media in Peshawar. “We wanted them to feel our pain,” he said.[7] Some of the Pakistani Army soldiers who participated in the bombing offensive in the northwest apparently had children enrolled in the school. An office at the Public School Compound in Peshawar, Pakistan, after the December 16, 2014 terrorist attack that killed 132 boys and 9 members of the staff. (Image source: BBC video screenshot) The methodical nature of the terrorist operation at the school, and the heartless nature of that mass killing of children, may foreshadow future attacks on similar easy targets such as defenseless Christian neighborhoods. Members of Pakistan’s military who asked to remain anonymous said they expected the terrorist factions in Peshawar to stage mass atrocity spectaculars like the school massacre in the near future. Christian clerics have been warned not to venture far from their churches. One minister was told no longer to take his morning or evening walks. Other Christians have been warned not to agree to any outside meetings unless they know the party well. General Sharif and his allies in the military’s high command have been in large part responsible for shifting the nation’s security concerns away from India and to groups such as the Pakistani Taliban. As police guards have proven inadequate and unreliable, Christian groups are hoping that the military will protect them. There is, as well, another incentive for Islamic terrorists to attack Christians: Few Pakistanis will shed a tear for people who do not, in their eyes, represent Pakistan’s Islamic values. Dr. Lawrence A. Franklin was the Iran Desk Officer for Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. He also served on active duty with the U.S. Army and as a Colonel in the Air Force Reserve, where he was a Military Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Israel. [1] Khyber Paktunkhwa was formerly called the Northwest Territory. The new name reflects nationalist sentiment to “cleanse” Pakistani institutions reminiscent of colonial occupation by the United Kingdom. [2] Militant Leadership Monitor, July 2015, Special Issue; Animesh Roul, Executive Director of Research at the Society for the Study of Peace and Conflict, New Delhi. [3] Pakistan’s Express Tribune, 28 November 2014. [4] Dawn, 23 September 2015, Karachi, Pakistan. [5] General Sharif Raheel’s vow reported on 17 December 2014, BBC. [6] “For Pakistan” website, 21 August 2015. [7] The school is a short walk to a Peshawar military installation where some of the soldiers involved in the ongoing offensive against the militants are stationed. Yahoo News India, 16 December 2015.

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