Terrorism along Pak-Iran border

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Malik Muhammad Ashraf;

Reportedly an improvised explosive device (IED) hit a vehicle of the military personnel in Buleda (district Kech) Balochistan near the Pak-Iran border on May 8, killing one major of the Pakistan Army and five soldiers who were returning to their base after conducting a routine patrol in the area. The Balochistan Liberation Army, which has bases on Iranian soil, claimed responsibility for the attack. It was in the backdrop of this regrettable incident that COAS General Bajwa called his Iranian counterpart Major General Bagheri on Tuesday to express his concern over the attack by the militants. According to a press release of ISPR both of them resolved to enhance security measures on either side of the border. General Bajwa rightly told the Iranian General that Pakistan had started fencing the border but would require mutual cooperation to ensure border security and stem smuggling activity which was also used by terrorists and narcotics traffickers to cover their movement. Unfortunately, this is not for the first time that the militants based in Iran have carried out attack against the security personnel. A similar attack was carried out by the militants on 18 April 2019 at Buzi top on the coastal highway when militants wearing uniforms barricaded the road, stopped 3-4 buses travelling from Ormara to Gawadar and killed 14 people including 11 personnel of Navy, Air Force and Coast Guards. Pakistan lodged a very strong protest with the Iranian government saying that the intelligence reports regarding the bases of the militants in Iran and their activities were shared with the Iranian authorities.

It was in the backdrop of the tense situation created by the Ormara incident that Prime Minister Imran Khan immediately paid a two-day visit to Iran and met its leaders. As a result of the mutual interaction, the two countries agreed to set up a Joint Rapid Reaction Force to fight terrorism and guard the common border between the two countries and vowed not to allow their territories to be used for terrorist activities. Relations between the two countries were under great stress following terrorist attacks on both sides of the frontier. It was then hoped that setting up of the joint force and fencing of the Pak-Iran border by Pakistan would help in preventing the recurrence of such incidents. In the context of bilateral relations, the two sides also resolved to enhance cooperation in a number of social and cultural domains besides expanding economic relations. But unfortunately militants continue to attack. It would perhaps be pertinent to have an insight into the history of relations between the two countries. In 1947, Iran was the first country to recognise Pakistan after its independence. The two countries were members of the Baghdad Pact known as CENTO which was an alliance against USSR during the cold war era. Along with Turkey, they formed RCD, which later became a larger group known as the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO).

The warmth and depth of ties between the two countries can be judged from the fact that during the 1965 war with India, Iran sided with Pakistan. It also helped in controlling the insurgency in Balochistan. However, the events of 1979, including the invasion of Afghanistan by Soviet Union and the revolution in Iran. , drastically changed the situation in the region as well as within Pakistan, which also affected relations between the two countries. Iran though opposed to the soviet invasion and joined hands with Pakistan in supporting the Afghan Jihad, always looked askance at the growing relationship of Saudi Arabia and US with Pakistan.