Hafeez Nawaz was 20 years old when he left his religious school in southern Karachi to join the Islamic State group in Afghanistan. Three years later he was back in Pakistan to carry out a deadly mission: with explosives strapped to his body, he blew himself up in the middle of an election rally last month, killing 149 people and wounding 300 others.

The attack in southwestern Baluchistan province near the Afghan border just days before Pakistan’s July 25 parliamentary elections has cast an unwelcome spotlight on Nawaz’s tiny village of Dhabeji, where the presence of an IS cell in their midst has brought the full weight of Pakistan’s security apparatus down on its residents.

“Now we are all under suspicion,” said Nawaz’s neighbor, who gave only his first name, Nadeem, for fear of the local police. “The security agencies now consider Dhabeji a security threat area.”

Nawaz’s trajectory from religiously devout student to jihadi and suicide bomber is an all too familiar one in Pakistan.

Since battlefield successes routed the Islamic State group from its strongholds in Syria and Iraq, hundreds of Pakistanis who traveled to join the extremists’ so-called “caliphate” are unaccounted for and Pakistan’s security personnel worry that they, like Nawaz, have gone underground waiting to strike.

 

Read more:  AP