Two New IS Wilayat in South Asia: IS Reinvigorates Itself in Pakistan and India

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 17 Issue: 13

Sri Lankan bombers declaring their allegiance to Islamic State in a video made before the attacks (source:

After the unexpected terrorist attack in Sri Lanka in May, Islamic State’s (IS) Central Shura (council) announced the establishment of two new Wilayat (governorates) in South Asia. The seven simultaneous and well-concerted terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday were orchestrated by National Tawheed Jamaat (NJT), a small cell of radicalized but educated individuals of affluent Sri Lankan Muslim families.

The first announcement by IS’ official Amaq Media was concerning the creation of Wilayat-e-Hind on May 12, followed by Wilayat-e-Pakistan on May 14 (VOA Pakistan, May 15). The new Wilayat are named after countries, which is a break from IS’ previous standards of naming its units after historic regions such as “Khorasan” for South and Central Asia. The move is in fact a departure from its past policy of not accepting nation-states as Wilayat of the self-proclaimed caliphate, especially in the case of Pakistan, a country carved out of British Indian dominions.

More interestingly, the Central Shura did not mention IS-Khorasan (IS-K), implying that IS-K would only be looking after the IS activities in Afghanistan and Central Asia. IS has not yet made any decision to dissolve or merge it with two new Wilayat and it is believed that IS-K would continue to operate under its current Emir Shaikh Aslam Farooqi from its areas of control in eastern Afghanistan. It is pertinent to mention that IS-K was established by IS after the proclamation of the Islamic Caliphate in June 2014. IS-K remains one of the most resilient chapters of IS around the globe as it continues to operate despite the loss of four consecutive emirs to US drone strikes since 2015. [1]

Wilayat-e-Pakistan and Wilayat-e-Hind

The decision to establish Wilayat-e-Pakistan must have been made earlier, but it was not announced by IS until after the NJT attacks in Sri Lanka, which was followed by two terrorist attacks in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province along the Afghanistan border where IS-K is believed to be active. The attacks were targeted killings that took place on May 12 and 15, and resulted in the death of two police officers in Baluchistan’s southern Mastung district. The Amaq Media Agency also claimed it targeted militants from Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Quetta, the provincial capital of Baluchistan province (, May 15). The reasons for targeting TTP members were not specified. Furthermore, the Central Shura also nominated Dawood Mehsud as Emir of Wilayat-e-Pakistan. [2]

Unlike Pakistan, IS’ penetration in India’s Muslim community is relatively low. Only the Islamist terrorist groups Ummat-e-Mohammadiya and Harkat ul Harb-e-Islam were found to have some links with IS. Both groups are relatively unknown and obscure. According to estimates, around 100 Indian Muslims have traveled to IS-controlled territories in Iraq and Syria, most of them from the southern Indian states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and others (Terrorism Monitor, May 31). Around 13 Indian Muslims were reportedly killed when the United States dropped the Mother of All Bombs (MOAB) in Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan in 2017. In the troubled Indian state of Kashmir, IS flags have been noticed during demonstrations against the Indian government and protestors have used IS slogans in recent years (First Post, December 29, 2018).

On May 12, the Amaq Media announced the establishment of IS’ Wilayat-e-Hind after it claimed responsibility for a terrorist attack in Amshipora village in the Shopian district of Indian Kashmir. IS’ media wing claimed that its militants fought a fierce battle with Indian security forces. According to Indian authorities, an IS militant, Ishfaq Sofi, was killed in that gun-battle (Xinhua, May 10).  Previously, IS had identified its Indian branch as Jundul Khalifah Hind or Islamic State Jammu and Kashmir (ISJK). ISJK’s media wing, Al-Burhan Media, had already spoken about the establishment of Wilayat-e-Hind in its recent edition of Al-Sawt (the Voice) magazine (SITE, May 2019).

IS’ Logic in Establishing Two New Wilayat and Implications

IS’ establishment of two new Wilayat is coming amid internal rifts within IS-Khorasan and further attempts by IS to penetrate Pakistan and India. IS-K is divided between followers of Shaikh Aslam Farooqi, a former Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant, and another led by Moavia Uzbeki. Both factions do not trust each other and while Farooqi’s faction has stopped fighting with the Afghan Taliban, the Uzbeki faction did not. In fact, this faction  faced the wrath of the Afghan Taliban during the battle of Darzab in Jawzjan province, which resulted in more than 300 casualties and the group’s ouster from Jawzjan (Terrorism Monitor, August 10, 2018).

In India, IS received some response in Islamist-insurgency-ridden Indian Kashmir, and there was some level of support culminated in the form of ISJK. Moreover it also revealed by the Sri Lankan authorities that NJT militants visited Indian Kashmir. IS was in fact late to recognize the potential of opening a new branch in India.

In Pakistan, IS-K has already made inroads and conducted a number of large-scale terrorist attacks resulting in mass casualties. One IS-K suicide attack in July during the 2018 general elections resulted in 149 fatalities in Mastung district (Express Tribune, July 16, 2018). The rich jihadist landscape of Pakistan offers more to IS and reduces the likelihood of factional issues inherent in making it a part of a larger Wilayat comprised of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asian States. IS has already been able to tap into the plethora of Islamist terrorist organizations operating in Pakistan and capitalized on their human and material resources.

There will certainly be implications for Pakistan and India. The security organizations of both countries need to reinvigorate their existing internal security apparatus. The IS branch in Pakistan is certainly more concerning, as IS-K has already been perpetrating acts of terrorism in the country since 2014. For Indian security policymakers, it is a matter of concern because of an ongoing Islamist insurgency in Indian Kashmir and rising radicalization in southern states. IS-K in Afghanistan has potential, and gained access to substantial resources when it settled in the eastern provinces of Afghanistan, but consecutive U.S. drone strikes have not allowed the group to rapidly expand. The separation of the IS branch in Pakistan could lead to an expansion that would be much more difficult to contain than the branch in Afghanistan.


[1] Hafiz Saeed Orakzai (killed July 2016), Abdul Haseeb Lgari (killed April 2017), Abdul Sayed Bajuari (killed July 2017) and Abu Saad Erhabi (killed Aug 2018).

[2] Discussions with a senior police officer of Punjab police on May 19, 2019.