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Cooperative counter-terrorism strategy

Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal

PRIME Minister Imran Khan visited Tehran to cultivate a better understanding of the Iranian leadership, which is imperative to combat the menace of terrorism. Both states have been suffering from cross border terrorist attacks. Prime Minister Khan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani agreed to increase cooperation between both states security agencies. They also announced that both countries would devise a cooperative counter-terrorism strategy to combat the militancy. The precise prediction about the outcome of understanding between Pakistan and Iran on militancy is difficult because both competing and cooperating variables have been making bilateral relations a complicated affair. Prime Minister Imran and President Rouhani offer an optimistic future course of cooperation. Whereas, realist theory of international relations coupled with the emerging trends in the regional geo-strategic environment entails pessimistic conclusions. The strategic competition between Saudi Arab and Iran, developments in Afghanistan and Indo-Iran defence partnership have the potential to spoil improving understanding between Islamabad and Tehran.
Realistically speaking, radicalised militancy is causing insecurity in both Iran and Pakistan. Recently, militants with the support of their foreign operators conducted terrorist attacks in Quetta and Chaman. On April 16, Baloch Raji Aajoi Saangar (BRAS), an alliance of three Baloch terrorist organizations, killed 14 personnel belonging to the armed forces in the Bozi Pass near Ormara. The disturbing factor is that the Baloch separatists are using Iranian territory for their safe hideouts. Government of Pakistan shared actionable pieces of evidence with Iran about the Baloch terrorist organizations’ sanctuaries located on its territory. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi claimed that the logistical training camps of BRAS are inside the Iranian border region. He said, “We have shared this actionable evidence with Iran after due authentication and identified the location of the camps.” Pakistan is planning to improve the security on its 950 kilometers border with Iran. It has taken various steps to prevent illegal activities in the border area. For enhancing the border management, patrolling, and surveillance Pakistan has planned to raise a new Frontier Corp, having it’s headquartered in Turbat. It will also establish border centres after the consultation with Iran. Pakistan is also fencing the border with Iran like it fenced the Pak-Afghan border. The positive development is that Iran and Pakistan agreed to set up joint border ‘rapid reaction force’ to counter terrorism during the recent Iran-Pakistan summit.
Prime Minister Khan assured his host that Pakistan would take all kinds of measures to prevent cross border terrorism. He said, “We are committed not to let it happen again. We will not allow any militant group to operate from our soil. We will not allow our soil to be used by anyone against anyone.” However, Prime Minister Khan statement in a joint press conference with President Rouhani was severely criticized in Pakistan. The opposition in the National Assembly accused Prime Minister Khan of conceding that Pakistani soil had been used in the past by terrorists to carry out attacks in Iran. Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) MNA Khurram Dastagir opined, “The statement has jeopardized national security. We demand to know how the prime minister’s admission serves the interests of the country.” PPP MNA Hina Rabbani Khar stated: “Our prime minister stood beside the Iranian president and said that our soil was being used for terrorist activities.
This is not funny anymore.” It is understandable that in a parliamentary democracy, the opposition in the parliament critically examines the government’s policies. However, one fails to understand why our political elite is reluctant to accept the reality that transnational terrorist groups misused Pakistani territory for their evil activities. That’s why the armed forces of Pakistan have launched operations such as Zarb-i-Azb and Raddul Fasaad. Without admitting reality, one cannot chalk out effective policy. To conclude, Pakistan needs to eliminate the remnants of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, Al-Qaeda, Jundallah, BRAS, etc. Without the sincere support of the neighbouring States, including Iran, it seems impossible. Therefore, joint border ‘rapid reaction force’ to counter terrorism is a constructive understanding between Iran and Pakistan.
— The writer is Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.