The Marketplace of Terrorist Ideas

Is ISIS Beating the Competition in Pakistan?

An armed paramilitary soldier stands guard after a suicide bomber blew himself up close to a police checkpoint in Peshawar, Pakistan January 19, 2016. Fayaz Aziz / Reuters

On the morning of August 8, the Islamic State (ISIS) carried out what was undoubtedly its most devastating and sophisticated attack to date in Pakistan. The operation began when Jamaat-ul-Ahrar—a faction of the Pakistani Taliban—and ISIS targeted the emergency services ward at Quetta’s Civil Hospital, where dozens of people, including many lawyers, were gathered to mourn the assassination of the president of the Balochistan Bar Association, Bilal Anwar Kasi. A suicide bomber detonated a lethal bomb, killing at least 97 people. In the space of a few hours, many practicing senior lawyers in one of Pakistan’s most important provincial capitals had been killed.

At first glance, Pakistan might seem like a natural point of expansion for ISIS. Not only is the country an avowedly Islamic republic, it has often been plagued by the kind of political instability (ranging from religious militancy to military coups) that has allowed ISIS

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