Is Pakistan a burden for neighbours or a victim of conspiracies?

By Agha Iqrar Haroon

Agha Iqrar Haroon is a Development Observer. His area of work includes Central Asia, South Asia and Eastern European regions
Agha Iqrar Haroon is a Development Observer. His area of work includes Central Asia, South Asia and Eastern European regions

Pakistan is facing an unpleasant situation as its three neighbours are blaming it for providing backyard to their enemies.

The Iranian Head of the Armed Forces Major General Muhammad Baqeri warned Pakistan of striking inside its territory to target militants. His statement blames Pakistan for harbouring militants of Jaish-al-Adl terror Group.

Afghanistan blames that Haqqani Group is present inside Pakistan and Pakistan is destabilizing Kabul government while India blames that Pakistan is involved in cross-border terrorism inside India referring to Pathankot and Uri incidents.

Meanwhile, Pakistan says that Indian intelligence agency RAW is collaborating with Afghan intelligence agency NDS to destabilise Pakistan and Iranian soil was used in past referring to the arrest of Indian spy Kulbhushan Yadav while entering to Pakistan from Iran. Yadav confessed in his video statement that he was based in Iran with a fake name and he had operational support of NDS for spreading terrorism in Pakistan.

The statement of Yadav indicates that three neighbours of Pakistan — Iran, Afghanistan and India – directly or indirectly are involved to destabilise Pakistan. Though Iran has said that it had no knowledge that its soil was used against Pakistan. Islamabad accepted Iran’s explanation overtly.

The breaking news of arrest of Yadav was released on March 25, 2016 by Inter Service Public Relations (ISPR) of Pakistan armed forces and the news coincided with official visit of the Iranian President Dr. Hassan Rouhani to Islamabad. Diplomatic circles in Pakistan were of the view that this was not the best timing to greet the Iranian President with embarrassing news that could be released well before or well after Rouhani’s visit to Pakistan. However, diplomatic cadre of Pakistan was of the view that the state machinery had prerogative to decide what could be better timing for releasing such news.

Unfortunately, Pakistan is the biggest victim of terrorism but is being painted as a state which is directly or indirectly supporting terrorism in the region. Over 70,000 innocent Pakistan were martyred in last 10 years by Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) whose Ameer Mullah Fazullah is undoubtedly living inside Afghanistan. The confessional statement of former TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan left no doubts for the whole world that RAW had been providing funding and the Afghan government had been providing operational support to TTP to conduct terrorist attacks inside Pakistan.

Iran claims that militant group Jaish-al-Adl carried out attack from Pakistani soil and killed 10 Iranian border guards. Iran also claims that militant outfit was residing in Balochistan province. Surprisingly, Iran forgets the fact that Jaish-al-Adl which is the branch of Jundallah is the most lethal terror outfit that killed over 500 innocent Pakistani during the last six years. Jaish-al-Adl came into being after the execution of Abdolmalik Rigi who was chief of Jundallah, or Jundallah (Soldiers of God) terror outfit. There is no doubt that Jundallah was present in Karachi and Balochistan during mid-2000 and conducted terrorism activities inside Iran and Pakistan. Jundallah Pakistan chapter was operated by TTP while Ameer of Jundallah was Abdolmalek Rigi who reportedly raised, lived and educated in a Madrasah of Karachi. Jundallah was allegedly involved in attacking a top army general of Pakistan in 2004 but general survived the attack in Karachi.

Rigi was captured and executed in Iran in 2010. According to details of his arrest, he was travelling from Dubai to Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) in a commercial airplane on February 23, 2010. When the plane arrived to Persian Gulf, Iranian fighter jets interrupted its way and asked the pilot to land in Iranian territory. The plane landed in the Bandar Abbas International Airport and Iranian forces identified Rigi and arrested him. According to the Iranian media, Rigi had Afghan passport with visas of Pakistan, Gulf countries, European countries and Middle Eastern countries issued from embassies of above mentioned countries in Kabul. Rigi in his confessional statement claimed that he was travelling to Bishkek to report to US troops present in Manas US Airbase near Bishkek city.

Iranian authorities know that Rigi was in contact with Afghan authorities and using Afghani passport and Afghani identity. Iranian authorities also know that Jundallah had been involved in terrorism activities in Pakistan and is now based in Afghanistan.

Iranians also have knowledge that Jundallah is the same terror outfit that took responsibilities of many high profile terror attacks inside Pakistan including 2013 Nanga Parbat tourist shooting, 2013 Peshawar church attack, suicide bombing at Wagah border and Shikarpur Shia Muslim Massacre on January 30, 2015.

Jundallah is a known enemy of Pakistan and Jaish-al-Adl is an off shoot or branch of Jundallah.

Pakistan on May 9, 2017 conveyed its concerns to Iran over the remarks of the Iranian Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces regarding cross-border actions. The Iranian Ambassador to Pakistan Mehdi Honardoost was called to the Foreign Office in Islamabad and it was him that such remarks were against the spirit of brotherly relations existing between the two countries. The Iranian side was urged to avoid issuance of such statements that could vitiate the environment of fraternal relations.

There is no doubt that Pak-Iran bilateral relations are going through a bad patch since last one year but both countries are shy to accept this fact openly. Iran is not comfortable with military support of Pakistan to Saudi-led military alliance. Iran also expressed its apprehension over appointment of former Chief of Pakistan Army General (retd) Raheel Sharif as head of Saudi-led military Alliance while Pakistan believes that General (retd) Raheel Sharif would bridge relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and military Alliance would not be used against any country but only against terrorists.

However, regional observers believe that there are less than 20% chances that Saudi Arabia would accept Iran as part of this military Alliance. Pakistan is optimistic that it will play a historic role to neutralize Saudi-Iran tensed relations. Only time will tell how Arab and Ajam would accept each other by forgetting their one thousand years old historic cum philosophical differences and how an official Shia state of Iran would mingle with an official Wahabi state of Saudi Arabia?

One should understand that differences between Saudi Arabia and Iran are not only based on their interests in Middle East rather their different schools of thoughts.

Iran is neighbour of Pakistan, and Islamabad and Tehran have enjoyed cordial relations with each other in the past but Indian involvement in Iranian economy after US sanctions on Iran is an important factor for redesigning Iranian Foreign Policy towards Pakistan. Pakistan halted trade relations with Iran after US imposed sanctions on Tehran but India and China kept doing businesses with Iran under US sanctions. This is known fact that Pakistan cannot compromise its foreign relations with oil rich Saudi Arabia and super power United States while Iran is considered as a threat by Saudi Arabia and United States. Pakistan has been following pro-US Middle East foreign policy since last 40 years. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and United States fought together against former Soviet Union in Afghanistan, and Pakistan cannot disengage itself from Saudi Arabia that is a main door to enter US-Middle Eastern foreign policy.

Iran is independent to form its bilateral relations with archrival of Pakistan that is India so Pakistan has every right to follow its interests by standing with Saudi Arabia and United States.

There is only one issue that needs thorough discussion within Pakistan and that is China-Iran relationship. China-run Gwadar port is powered with Iranian electricity and China considers Iran as an important component for its One Belt –One Road project that also covers China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). China has indicated that Chabahar Port of Iran could be used as satellite port of Gwadar Port. Chabahar Port is linked with Central Asia.

Iran should understand that China is balancing its relations with Iran and Saudi Arabia, and recent visit of King of Saudi Arabia was a great success to enhance their bilateral trade as higher as over 60 billion USD.

Threatening Pakistan or blaming her for harbouring Jaish-al-Adl cannot benefit Iran but only India. New Delhi is trying its best to halt CPEC project to cap industrial growth of southern China, and economic growth of Pakistan and Iran because Gwadar would be one of the largest international ports of the world and Chabahar Port would be its component once CPEC is fully operational.

 

Disclaimer:

The views and opinions expressed in this article/Opinion/Comment are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Dispatch News Desk (DND). Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of Dispatch News Desk.

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