M Nawaz Khan
IN South Asia (SA), a tussle is underway in establishing one of the two major competing political orders – the “‘Caliphate political order’ and ‘Amir-ul-Momineen political order’” – by the ISIS-likeminded groups and Afghan Taliban along with bandwagoning of Al-Qaeda in SA and the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP, which is currently based in Afghanistan) respectively, under which they have launched their four different jihads for creating the “Islamic State of Khurasan Province” or “Islamic State of Khurasan” and “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan or Waziristan.” In the backdrop of these different jihads in region, it seems that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) is facing serious difficulties in establishing its Islamic State of Khurasan Province.
As currently, intense ideological rivalry is going on in Afghanistan between the ISIS-likeminded groups and Afghan Taliban along with bandwagoning groups, whereof the ISIS Afghanistan Chapter could not get sufficient success and popularity similar to the Middle East (ME) chapter of the ISIS as it procured initially in Iraq and Syria. This reflects that if the ISIS could not be able to score successes in the weaker state like Afghanistan, then its future prospects in taking roots in SA would be likely limited. Therefore, in order to understand any possible future prospects of the ISIS in the region, there is a need to understand the political vision of ISIS, while comparing and contrasting it to those being advocated by Al-Qaeda, Afghan Taliban and TTP.
The ISIS jihad is for establishing Khurasan Province under the Caliphate system because Al-Baghdadi, a self-proclaimed caliph, has declared all other ‘Sultanates,’ ‘Amir-ul-Momineen,’ and ‘Emirates,’ including the Taliban’s movement, to be illegal. The so called map published by the ISIS depicting countries for enlargement of Islamic State such as the ME, Muslim countries of Central and South Asian regions, North Africa and mainland Spain. Accurately these are the states, which are or once stayed under Muslim domain. The map presents both Pakistan and Afghanistan as portion of Khurasan province. The ISIS considers the province as a campground of international jihad from where the group would extend the Islamic state frontiers into other parts of the world including India. The map expectedly depicting the territory that the group aims to have under the ISIS’ domain in coming five years, had been extensively distributed on social media.
Al Qaeda seeks to establish Islamic State of Khurasan as it believes that the struggle for the creation of the Islamic State of Khurasan would arise from the area consisting of Malakand area of Pakistan and Nuristan and Kunar provinces of Afghanistan. To fulfil its objective, on September 2014, Al Zawahiri proclaimed the establishment of Qaedat al-Jihad fi’shibhi al-qarrat al-Hindiya or Al-Qaeda in Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), also commonly known as al Qaeda in SA. The creation of this new Al-Qaeda regional group followed soon after the formal split between Al Zawahiri and Abu Bakr al Baghdadi was merely a reaction to the declaration of caliphate system by the latter. Al-Qaeda did not release any map, showing countries for establishing Islamic State of Khurasan. Although the group claims to remain allied and loyal to Afghan Taliban’s Amir-ul-Momineen but it does give any statement that so-called Islamic State of Khurasan will be ruled by the latter.
Initially the above-cited political vision was not the part of TTP’s aims and objectives. Its declared aims are fight against the Pakistani state, implementation of Sharia interpreted by the TTP and a strategy to amalgamate against the US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan. Latter on it was reported that Baitullah Mehsud (killed August 2009) wanted to establish the Islamic Emirate of Waziristan in the tribal areas of Pakistan; and the present leader of the TTP Fazlullah is also influenced by the idea of Khurasan movement and pondered him the founder of the Khurasan movement. There is no statement given by the TTP that so-called Islamic Emirate of Waziristan will be ruled by the Afghan Taliban’s Amir-ul-Momineen. Rather, the TTP operates separately from the Afghan Taliban, but are loosely aligned with the latter and it claims to remain allied and loyal to Amir-ul-Momineen. In fact, the TTP has rejected the ISIS Caliphate. According to it, Baghdadi is not caliph because in Islam, caliph means a command over the entire Muslim world, while Abu Bakr al Baghdadi has no such command except over a specific people and territory.
The Afghan Taliban has not only rejected the ISIS political vision of establishing Khurasan Province under the Caliphate but the former is also actively fighting against the latter to crush in Afghanistan. The eventual goal of the Afghan Taliban is the resurgence “of the lost Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.” As their focus is only on the political concept of emirate therefore, Afghan Taliban jihad is confined only to the territory of Afghanistan with no regional or international ambition of establishing any Islamic state like the ISIS and Al-Qaeda. Therefore, Afghan jihad might be considered most popular as compared to the ISIS in South Asia.
—The writer works at Islamabad Policy Research Institute, a think-tank based in Islamabad.
M Nawaz Khan