The head of the Iranian armed forces warned Islamabad on Monday (May 8) that Tehran would hit bases inside Pakistan if the government does not confront militants who carry out cross-border attacks.
Ten Iranian border guards were killed by militants on April 26. Iran said Jaish-al-Adl (the Army of Justice), a militant group, had shot the guards with long-range guns, fired from inside Pakistan. Jaish ul-Adl claimed responsibility for the attack.
The group was reportedly founded in 2012 by members of Jundallah (the Army of God), a Sunni militant group that had been weakened following Iran’s capture and execution of its leader, Abdul Malik Rigi, in 2010. Its first major attack occurred in October 2013 when 14 Iranian border guards. The group claimed responsibility for attacks that killed eight border guards in April 2015
Jaish ul-Adl is a designated terrorist organization by Iran.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visited Pakistan last week and asked Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to improve border security. Pakistan assured Iran it would deploy additional troops along its border, according to Reuters news agency.
“We expect the Pakistani officials to control the borders, arrest the terrorists and shut down their bases,” Major General Mohammad Baqeri, the head of the Iranian armed forces, was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA. “If the terrorist attacks continue, we will hit their safe havens and cells, wherever they are,” he said.
Pakistan is located at the junction of Central Asia and Middle East, which gives its location great significance. Pakistan shares its borders with four neighboring countries – Afghanistan, China, India, and Iran – adding up to about 6,975 km (4,334.1 miles) in length (excluding the coastal areas).
Pakistan has 2,430 km (1,510 miles), border with Afghanistan known as the Durand Line, which runs from the Hindu Kush and the Pamir Mountains. Pakistan shares 3323 Km (including Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu & Kashmir sector) of its land border with India. This border runs along the States of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir. Pakistan has a 523 km border with China towards the northeast. To its west Pakistan shares a 909 km border with Iran.
Tellingly, Pakistan doesn’t enjoy very good relations with three of its four neighbors namely, Afghanistan, China, India and Iran. With the exception China currently Pakistan is facing problems with its neighbors.
Pakistan enjoys exceptionally good ties with China which is exemplified by the $50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which by linking Pakistan’s Arabian seaport of Gwadar with western China will partially offset any threat of an economic blockade on China.
Border clashes with Afghanistan
At least 10 people have been killed and dozens others wounded after a cross-border battle between Pakistani and Afghan forces during a Pakistani population census near the border. The attack on Friday left dozens of people wounded and happened near the Chaman crossing point in restive Balochistan province prompting security forces to ask people to evacuate villages on the border. Chaman, one of the two main border crossings between Pakistan and Afghanistan, was closed in the wake of the incident, with firing ongoing, Pakistani military spokesman Asif Ghafoor said.
On Sunday, the Pakistani military said it had killed more than 50 Afghan soldiers since the fighting erupted Friday at the Chaman border crossing, which divides Pakistan’s southwest Baluchistan province and Afghanistan’s southern Kandahar province.
Kabul quickly denied the Pakistan statement. “A very false claims by a Pakistani Frontier Corp that as many as 50 Afghan soldier lost their lives in Pak retaliation; totally rejected,” tweeted Sediq Sediqqi, a government spokesman. Samim Khpalwak, a spokesman for the governor of Kandahar province, instead said two troops were lost in the attack, in addition to one civilian death.
While the border clashes between Afghanistan and Pakistan are not a new occurrence, observers say this time around the situation is more “warlike.” “There have been at least two mass protest rallies in Kandahar and Torkham against Pakistan’s alleged provocation and meddling in Afghan affairs,” said Shadi Khan Saif, DW’s correspondent in Kabul.
Amid worsening ties with Afghanistan, Pakistan announced in March it had started building a fence along the volatile Afghan-Pakistani border. Islamabad said the move was aimed at restricting the movement of militants that cross over the porous border and launch attacks on Pakistani soil.
The move, however, is extremely controversial in Afghanistan and among the Pashtu-speaking people who live on both sides of the border.
Every day, thousands of Afghans and Pakistanis cross the Durand Line – the 2,430-kilometer (1,510 miles) boundary established by the British during their colonial rule. The Afghan government does not recognize the Durand Line as the official border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Pashtuns can easily travel back and forth across the border, but the deteriorating political ties between the two countries are now causing them problems.
India, Pakistan clash on Line of Control
Border clashes across the Line of Control in the disputed Kashmir region between the nuclear armed neighbors, India and Pakistan, are frequent and often bloody.
On Monday India claimed that Pakistani troops snuck across the Line of Control in disputed Kashmir, killed two Indian soldiers, and beheaded their corpses.
Pakistan has denied the Indian report. Pakistan’s Director General of Military Operations, Maj. Gen. Sahir Shamshad Mirza, said the Indian claims of a Pakistani incursion, ambush and desecration of dead Indian soldiers were an “attempt to divert the attention of the world” from the popular unrest in Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only majority-Muslim state.
Indian Defense Minister Arun Jaitley vowed Monday that the “sacrifice” of the Border Security Force personnel “will not go in vain,” adding India’s armed forces “will respond appropriately.” This language echoes that employed by Prime Minster Narendra Modi and other members of the BJP government last September when 18 Indian soldiers killed in Uri along the Line of Control.
Indian Vice Army Chief Sarath Chand denounced the Pakistani military for carrying out “extreme barbaric acts” not even seen “during war” at a press conference. He pledged Pakistan would suffer consequences, but said that rather than making threats, India’s military “will focus on our action at a time and place of our choosing.”
Responding to the Indian threats in kind, the Pakistani military spokesman said “any misadventure,” i.e. Indian attack, “shall be appropriately responded at a place and time of [our] own choosing.”
Tellingly, India and Pakistan relations were already tense over an Indian espionage scandal. On April 10, 2017 Pakistan sentenced to death Kulbhushan Jadhav, an Indian alleged spy. Jadhav was arrested on March 3, 2016, in Balochistan’s Mashkel area for his involvement in espionage and sabotage activities against Pakistan, according to the Army Public Relations.
“His goal was to disrupt development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), with Gwadar port as a special target,” Army Public Relations Director Lt Gen Asim Bajwa had said, adding, “This is nothing short of state-sponsored terrorism… There can be no clearer evidence of Indian interference in Pakistan.”
Jadhav was tried by Field General Court Martial (FGCM) under Section 59 of the Pakistan Army Act (PAA) and Section 3 of the official Secret Act of 1923. He was charged with spying for the Indian spy agency the Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) and being involved in subversive activities in the Gilgit-Baltistan region.
India has condemned Jadhav’s conviction and sentencing in the strongest terms and cited it as further reason to freeze diplomatic relations with Islamabad.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars since 1947.
Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America (www.journalofamerica.net) email: asghazali2011 (@) gmail