Knock, knock: ISIS enters Lahore
by R K Ohri on 02 Apr 2016 3 Comments
The ISIS announced its arrival in Lahore by bombing the Easter festivities at Gulshan-e-Iqbal in which nearly 72 persons, mostly Christians, were killed.[1] A militant outfit, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA), claimed responsibility for the mayhem. The number of injured is reported to be around 300 and the death toll is expected to rise, according to a local official. A journalist working with television channel Geo News posted a facsimile of the identity card of the suicide bomber that was found at the spot. 


The attack in Lahore was a loud message from the 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.[2] 


The Jamaat-ul-Ahrar is a notorious jihadi group which broke away from the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) more than 18 months ago. It had pledged support to the ISIS in 2014 after Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed the establishment of a caliphate. The ideology of the JuA is the same as that of the ISIS. Previously it had claimed responsibility for several bombings, including the attack in Charsadda on 7 March 2016, to avenge the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri, who killed Salman Taseer, former Governor of Punjab. Prima facie, the dastardly attack on Christians in Lahore on Sunday was a clear indicator of the troubled times ahead this tiny minority in Pakistan. It compelled Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to cancel 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 five raids conducted in Lahore, Faisalabad and Multan after the Lahore suicide bombing, according to reliable sources.


The Jamaat-ul-Ahrar has made it clear in no uncertain terms that Christians were their target. According to Ehsanullah Ehsan, a JuA spokesman, “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.” [3] JuA has a history of  violence and bloodshed. Some instances of jihadi attacks are given below.

-        On 2 November 2014, the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan had claimed responsibility for an attack on a Pakistani post at Wagah border, in 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.

-        On 7 November 2014, the JuA claimed responsibility for twin bombings that killed at least six members of the Peace Committee in Chinari village of Mohandas Agency.

-        On 21 November 2014, JuA claimed responsibility for a grenade attack on a camp of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) in Orangi area of Karachi, injuring 50 persons.

-        On 15 March 2015, JuA claimed responsibility for twin bombings of churches during Sunday service at Youhanabad town, Lahore. At least 15 Christians were killed and 70 wounded in the attacks.


The ultimate goal of the JuA is to create an Islamic State across AFPAK 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, a rabid kaffir-hater who was once close to the Al Qaeda leadership. Impressed by the creation of a caliphate presided over by al-Baghdadi, the group shifted 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. He said that factional fighting within the Pakistan Taliban and ideological differences caused the group to form the JuA. 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, has 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 to 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 has not come a day too soon. It is a wake up call to India. 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 Indian security agencies not to lower their guard and reinvent themselves to meet the Islamic challenge.


1)       Vicky Nanjappa, In the Lahore attack there is a loud message from the ISIS, March 28, 2016

2)      Ibid

3)      Eric Clinton, Pakistan Suicide Bombing: Dozens Killed in Lahore, IB Times, 27 March, 2016.  

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