On February 5, the Iranian security forces conducted a surgical operation across the Pakistan border and rescue two of its soldiers from a terror camp.
In fact, in October 2018, the Jaish ul-Adl, a Salafi jihadist militant organization, kidnapped 12 Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).
This organisation is carrying on an armed struggle against Iran and it is considered a terrorist group by Tehran itself.
The group is also mentioned in the Pakistan’s National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) list, in which the organisations considered to be terrorist by Islamabad are inserted and many of them are used to operate near the Iran-Pakistan border.
In particular, the Jaish ul-Adl organisation operates in the Sistan-Baluchestan region, divided between Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The Pakistani Army remained aloof of the Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) crossing the international border and carrying out a military operation on its soil.
The Islamabad Government chose not to respond militarily or diplomatically to what Tehran did, which undermined Pakistan’s sovereignty again. The development sheds light on the state of affairs in Pakistan.
With the political class and security forces harping on nationalism and religious supremacy, Pakistan has faces political instability, insecurity and political violence.
This has cost the Islamic Republic too dearly on social and economic front.
In spite of the redaction of the NACTA, Pakistan has seen itself involved in supporting extremist outfits and their camps for over three decades – first to secure its turn in the Cold War days, and later to influence the security dynamics in South Asia.
Neighbouring India, Iran and Afghanistan have borne the brunt of cross-border actions.
The recent operation by Iran indicates its discomfort with Pakistan for patronising certain militant groups that pose serious challenges to its national security.
Iran has been accusing Pakistan of not acting against these groups operating out of Pakistani soil.
In fact, Iran declared years ago that it will attack areas of Pakistan sheltering terrorist groups, in breach of international law, unless Pakistan itself strengthens control over its border in order to stop cross-border aggressions.
After that 27 military personnel were killed in a suicide bombing by Jaish ul-Adl in 2019, Mohammad Bagheri, chief of general staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, said:
“If, for whatever reason, the activities of the training centres and shelters of terrorist groups in Pakistan continue, Iran has the right to fight these centres based on the UN charter and will adopt related decisions if required.”
Moreover, Major General Mohammad-Ali Jafari said: “The Government of Pakistan knows the location of these elements that are dangerous to Islam and should be accountable for the crimes the terrorists have committed”.
In response, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi used a softer tone declaring: “We respect their sovereignty and territorial integrity. I am sure they respect ours. If there are issues, we can discuss them”.
This tension led the bilateral relations between the countries to take a nosedive and thus Iran seeking India’s help in combating terrorism in the region.
And, following India’s footstep, Iran began carrying out surgical strikes to finish off the terrorists inside Pakistan’s territory.
Even India, which faced severe challenges in Jammu and Kashmir and the ongoing militant activities, reportedly conducted cross-border operations across the years.
In 2019, India lost 40 of its security personnel in a suicide bombing, the deadliest single attack against Indian forces in this region since 1989, by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) militant outfit.
This group is officially banned in Pakistan but it still operates and raised funds in the country.
Even for that reason, these attacks haves worsened the relationship between the neighbouring countries.
India pressed Pakistan to extradite Masood Azhar, JeM commander, but Islamabad refused, claiming the lack of evidence against him.
Moreover, thanks to its affinity with China, Pakistan could block this Indian request at UN level too.
New Delhi responded with a cross-border air strike killing over 300 terrorists.
This was only after the outfit claimed the responsibility for attacks.
The airstrike deteriorated the strong possibility of India going to a war with Pakistan. It led Pakistani people to panic.
Incidentally, the searches made about the airstrike was more in Pakistan territory than in India.
Pakistan responded with other strikes in Indian Kashmir.
This high tension led India to revoke Article 370 of its Constitution that states the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. Hence, the Indian Kashmir remained under lockdown, with no internet service and thousands of people detained.
Even Afghanistan, that was once the citadel of the Taliban has tense ties over Pakistan’s support to militant groups.
According to a report by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), around 6,000- 6,500 terrorists belonging to Pakistan-supported Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP) were present in Afghanistan in 2020.
The report mentioned that the TTP is linked with the Afghan-based affiliate of the Islamic State Group and that some of its members have joined the IS.
The TTP terrorists represent a threat both for Afghanistan and Pakistan, because they are responsible for many horrific attacks in both countries.
The UNSC report came soon after India urged Pakistan to contemplate why it is universally acknowledged as the “international epicentre” of terrorism and the “best safe haven for terrorists”.
Despite calls and pressures from the international community to take sustained, verifiable and irreversible actions against such outfits operating from its soil, Pakistan is yet to act.
Moreover, this last August, Afghanistan accused Islamabad’s border forces of killing at least 15 Afghan civilians in a border crossing point.
Afghanistan’s Foreign Ministry called for a serious investigation and Pakistan blamed Afghan security forces for starting the clash at the border. According to Islamabad, security forces responded in self-defence only.
Pakistan is not facing only military operations, by air and/or by land, carried out by neighbouring countries.
Islamabad is also a real target for drone attacks by other nations and, in particular, the US.
In its operations, the use of drones was not clarified earlier and, often, the Government itself denied the strikes.
Only in the last few years of the Obama Presidency, the U.S. started to release information about the strikes carried out outside of traditional war zones.
In particular, the American strikes occurred along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
A Special UN Human Rights Envoy had in the past expressed concerns over the U.S. carrying out drone attacks in Pakistan frequently.
In fact, the UN Human Rights Council discussed the implication of countering terrorism and the use of drones. and recalled the obligations that Member States have regarding respecting the general principles of international law.
In particular, they have to respect State sovereignty, territorial integrity, including sovereign air space, and the political independence of other States.
However, there was no concrete resistance from Pakistani side.
The four nations, namely India, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, are naturally suited as partners if trade potential and cultural unity can be achieved.
Peace in the region can only come if the three bordering Nations help Pakistan open itself to more trade and cultural exchanges so it integrates seamlessly with the broader region.
Camilla Limiti is a Human Rights Activist based out of Italy and holds a Master’s Degree in Human Rights and Multilevel-Governance.