June-July 2016 changed the Turkish politics and security doctrine for good. No, I’m not referring to the attempted coup d’état that somehow immortalized President Erdogan. It was the suicide bombing on June 28 at the Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport that turned the most outrageous of the fears into reality. But, wait. What’s so ‘Russian’ about it? One of the three suicide bombers hailed from Russia, and the other two weren’t too geographically distant either. One from Uzbekistan and the other one from Kyrgyzstan.

The numbers I’m going to share might seem surreal, but you’re, obviously, at your liberty to debunk these, anyway. Can you name the country with the most number of its citizens there in the ranks of ISIS? Hint: The place from where the concept of modern-day Jihad actually originated. Alright, let me do the honors. Tunisia and Saudi Arabia are the two countries with the most number of its citizens fighting the ‘holy war’. Russia comes third. Indeed, it isn’t a typo-error.

According to a recent estimate, around 2,400 Russian nationals have formally joined the most-feared outfit. Russia has surpassed France (1,800 foot soldiers), Britain (760 fighters), Germany (760 fighters) and Belgium with a bit more than 450. This doesn’t end here. There are jihadis that haven’t formally announced allegiance with the IS yet, but the ‘ruthlessness’ they bring to the table can’t be ignored. Combine all of this, and you get the total number of Russian-speaking jihadi fighters to be around 5,000-6,000. So, there isn’t much to muffle. Russian, after Arabic, has, as the numbers suggest, become the most popular and widely appreciated language among the soldiers fighting the holy war.

Those who cover the Russian political environment would surely remember the name: Irek Hamidullin. Those who don’t, should read a bit more about him since this piece isn’t about his profile. Just to give you a head-start, Mr. Hamidullin is for Tatarstan what Osama bin Laden was for Saudi Arabia. You wouldn’t be wanting more clues than that, would you? Then, there comes the Pakistani connection. After disagreements with the ‘Taliban’ in the early 2000s, the Bulgar Jamaat epitomized Hamidullin’s ideology. If intelligence reports were to believed, OBL was on-board as well, with Al-Qaeda ordering the “Uyghur Bulgar Jamaat” (comprised of Chinese and Kazakh Uyghurs) to create operational cells throughout Russia. ‘Humint’ (human intelligence) from “up river” (an intelligence term used to refer to CIA) proved fruitful in getting a hold of Mr. Hamidullin when, in 2009, he masterminded the attack on Camp Leyza along the Pak-Afghan Border.

So, how does that affect and impact Pakistan is the question, then. Before moving on any further, Pakistanis need to remind themselves of the number of distant ‘Central Asians’ involved in suicide bombings in the country in the previous years. I needn’t say much. You’re welcome to draw your own analogies. For Pakistan, let’s analyze the immediate ‘East’ a bit. It seems nothing has changed much. ‘Uri’ was the centre-stage in 1947-48 when the unconventional forces from this part of the border crossed the Uri River, making their way to Baramula. Srinagar, from thereon, was a mere 50km or so. What transpired afterwards is history, a piece of history that isn’t easy enough for many people to digest.

In the contemporary setting, can Uri be the precursor to another low-conflict battle between the nuclear neighbors? Or, if I’m allowed to put it so, has it already resulted in an undeclared combat? The recent militant strike on Nagrota Base has further deteriorated the bilateral ties between India and Pakistan. Mr. Sartaj Aziz was expected to deliver the goods in Amritsar during the Heart of Asia Conference. Hope springs eternal.  The need to de-escalate can’t be stressed enough. Funny things do happen. Miracles do occur. A semblance of sanity is required on both the sides of the LOC.

Just a takeaway note: The more the Pakistani authorities get themselves drawn in the sub-conventional warfare in Kashmir, the more difficult it will become for them to come out of it. It has been proven time and again. All it does is to de-legitimize the legitimate struggle of the native Kashmiris. Also, it does no good to the people that can be described by the Israeli maxim: “If you’re captured, we don’t know you. If you’re killed, we won’t bury you. So, don’t get captured and don’t get killed.”

Since the key suspect in Baldia Factory fire that caused havoc in September 2012 has now been caught by the Thai Interpol, Pakistani authorities should unearth the ‘network’ as soon as possible. Russia is ‘right-next-door’, and Russian-speaking Jihadis would be no stranger to moving in and out of Pakistan. Pull-up your socks, Dear Pakistan!