On April 20, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi claimed in a press conference that Baloch Raaji Aajoi Sangh (BRAS), the alliance of three Baloch sub-nationalist groups which was responsible for killing 14 personnel of Pakistani security forces in Balochistan’s area of Ormara on April 18, is operating from Iran. The Foreign Minister further claimed of providing actionable intelligence related to training camps and logistics bases of BRAS to Iranian intelligence in recent past and earlier. However, no action was taken by Iran in this regard, Mr. Qureshi added.
Mr. Qureshi’s claims were the first time Pakistan officially claimed that the safe havens of Baloch sub-nationalist groups (BSNGs) are located in Iran.
Mr. Qureshi’s claims were the first time Pakistan officially claimed that the safe havens of Baloch sub-nationalist groups (BSNGs) are located in Iran. It seems to be a break away from its earlier held stance of not openly naming Iran because of the sensitive nature of the relationship between the two neighbouring countries. Apart from Kulbushan Jadhav case, Pakistani officials have always restrained from naming Iran openly for being used as a hub for anti-Pakistan subversive activities. Despite the denial of several BSNGs, Iranian soil has been utilized by some BSNGs for the following objectives:
- Acting as a transit point for entering into Afghanistan
- Establishing training and logistics camps
- Treating injured fighters
- Planning and executing terror attacks inside Pakistan
In past, Pakistan has blamed Indian consulate in Iranian city of Zahedan of supporting terror activities in Pakistan. Following his capture in March 2016, Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav claimed to conduct meetings with Baloch sub-nationalists in Zahedan for planning future terror attacks in Balochistan. The reason given by Jadhav for crossing into Pakistan was to meet leaders of Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) and Baloch Republican Army. The Indian spy also revealed about a planned attack on Pakistani consulate in Zahedan.
Following the hanging of Jundullah Chief Abdolmalek Rigi in June 2010, Baloch National Front (BNF), which is a coalition of eight Baloch nationalist groups, protested against Rigi’s hanging. It was the first time that Baloch nationalist groups expressed solidarity with secessionist groups based in Iran. At that time, BNF claimed that it was in contact with Jundullah and both organizations were planning to launch a united front in Iran and Pakistan.
It has been reported that several BSNGs have established their training and logistics camps in Iranian border areas. After a number of operations by security forces in Awaran, considered as Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF)’s stronghold, following the 2013 earthquake, BLF was weakened and subsequently, its leadership took sanctuary in Iran. BLF is claimed to be in contact with Iranian intelligence with drug lords acting as intermediaries. It is alleged that Iran is providing the militant outfit material support and training facilities to eliminate anti-Iran militant groups in Pakistan’s Balochistan.
In late 2017 or early 2018, Iranian border guards attacked a BLF team by confusing them as anti-Shia militant groups. The wounded BLF fighter was taken to Imam Ali Hospital in Chabahar where he was later pronounced dead. The other fighters were subsequently released. Apart from BLF, BLA fighters have reportedly undergone medical treatment in Iran. BLA has also reportedly established its safe havens in Iran.
Iran has also served as a transit point for entering into Afghanistan. After getting severely wounded in an encounter with Pakistani security forces in Sibbi district of Balochistan in March 2016, Aslam Baloch, who was heading his own splinter faction of BLA before he was killed in Afghanistan in December last year, managed to flee to Afghanistan via Iran. BLF chief Dr. Allah Nazer is also reported to be based in Iran.
It has been reported that several BSNGs have established their training and logistics camps in Iranian border areas.
Some BSNGs have been accusing Iran of preferring certain BSNGs for its own interests. In December 2017, BLA (Hybyair Marri faction) released a detailed statement in which it accused BLF and commanders of several BSNGs of working as Iranian proxies. The detailed statement also accused Iran and BLF of weakening Baloch Liberation Army (BLA). BLA officially bifurcated into two main factions, the other headed by Aslam Baloch (now headed by Bashirzeb Baloch), following the Dalbandin terror attack in August 2018.
In addition to extremist elements within Pakistan and Iran, terrorist outfits surrounding Pak-Iran border are the ultimate beneficiaries of hostility between the two neighbouring countries. Both countries should jointly deal with the sources of discord and assure each other that their soils will not be used for subversive activities against each other.
Fahad Nabeel is currently pursuing M.Phil in International Relations from National Defence University. He has graduated in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Virtual University of Pakistan. Fahad has considerably researched on regional geo-political issues and militancy trends. Currently, he is working as a Senior Research Associate at CSCR.