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No organised presence of IS in Pakistan, says FO

By Baqir Sajjad Syed 2016-02-12
ISLAMABAD: Despite intelligence warnings that the militant Islamic State (IS) group is an emerging threat, Foreign Office insists that the Middle Eastern terrorist group has `no organised presence` in the country.

`Let me reiterate that there is no organised presence of Daesh, the Arabic acronym for IS, in Pakist an,` FO spokes-man Nafees Zakaria said on Thursday.

The new spokesman, who was holding his first media briefing, was answering a question about the testimony by Aftab Sultan, the chief of the Intelligence Bureau, the lead civilian intelligence agency, before a Senate committee on Wednesday that IS was an emerging threat, particularly because of the support of local terrorist and extremist organisations, including the Tehreek-iTaliban Pakistan, Sipah-i-Sahaba (nowoperating under the name of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat) and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.

IS has been discussed as an emergingthreat at different national forums in the past as well.

Speaking at a corps commanders` conference on Wednesday, Army ChiefGeneral Raheel Sharif cautioned about local abettors of terrorists. However, he did not directly link his observation to IS.

Foreign Office has all along maintained that IS is not a major security threat for the country, but such assertions have failed to quash fears about the group, which has found a foothold in neighbouring Afghanistan and reports aboutits activitiesinside Pakistankeep coming.

Several sleeper cells and recruitingrings of IS are said to have been busted by security agencies.

PATHANKOT: The spokesman said that Pakistan and India were in touch with each other for convening a meeting of their foreign secretaries, which had been delayed because of the recent attack on an airbase in Pathankot.

`The two sides understand that dialogue is the only way to resolve the outstanding issues between the two countries. They are in contact to finalise the dates for the tall(s,` Mr Zakaria said.

The meeting, which would decide the modalities and schedule of the Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue --the framework agreed for resuming bilateral dialogue --was earlier planned for January 15.

While postponing the meeting under the shadow of the Pathankot attack, the two countries had agreed to hold the meeting soon.

The scheduling of the meeting is apparently being held up because Pakistani investigators looking into allegedinvolvementof Jaishe-Muhammad in the attack are yet to report progress.

`I do not have information about the conclusion of the investigation. However, the two sides remain in con-tact with each other on all matters related to bilateral issues,` the spokesman said.

SYRIA: The Foreign Office continued to maintain its ambivalence about the possibility of Pakistani involvement in ground intervention in Syria being planned by Saudi Arabia.

Answering a question about the Saudi plans and Pakistan`s position, the spokesman said: `Pakistan has consistently supported all regional and international efforts to combat terrorism and extremism. It is in this context that we have welcomed the coalition against terrorism. Details will be worl(ed out at experts`level.

A contingent of Pakistan Army is participating in military exercises codenamed `Raad Al-Shamal` in Saudi Arabia. Twenty-one Muslim and Arab countries are participating in the exercise.