The Pakistani deep state is pushing the Haqqani Network to increase its stake in so-called Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP) to retain its leverage on Afghanistan irrespective of the on-going peace process and maintain plausible deniability in future terror attacks in Af-Pak region, according to senior counter-terrorism officials.
According to officials, the ISKP can front attacks for the Haqqani Network and Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT). ISKP leader Aslam Farooqi, a Pakistani national with links to LeT and Pakistan’s Tehrik-e-Taliban was arrested by Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security along with 19 other terrorist cadres on April 5.
Af-Pak watchers say that ISKP units in Kabul and the border province of Nangarhar are already under the firm control of former HQN commanders and Sirajuddin Haqqani, Deputy leader of Taliban, who are launching attacks on Afghan capital. Besides being part of the intelligence and reconnaissance gathering network, ISKP cadres are also attacking Kabul in tandem with the HQN group.
The HQN’s influence in ISKP is not only restricted to the cadres joining the outfit but also transcends into various other levels such as leadership control, military and intelligence commissions and district levels Emirs of the global terrorist group. The ISKP is currently divided into three factions – Aslam Farooqi, Mauvviya and Imam Bukhari.
However, the attempt to take over ISKP by the Haqqani Network with the help of Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is not without its own set of challenges. The three factions are apprehensive of the Rawalpindi-backed group and are vehemently resisting the Haqqani Network’s effort to join the ISKP in Afghanistan.
The ISI, however, is helping the HQN try to open channels with the ISKP’s Imam Bukhari faction to bring it within the fold of “Khilafat-e-Islami Khorasan” and maintain strong operational cooperation.