Destabilising borders tension

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Dr Zafar N Jaspal

THE increasing mistrust with Afghanistan and Iran is alarming. The deteriorating situation on Pakistan-Afghanistan border and Pakistan-Iran border is perilous for the regional security and prosperity. Instead of realizing the gravity of situation, Islamabad, Tehran and Kabul are issuing intimidating warnings to one another. Perhaps, this nature of relations’ between/among the neighbours are not in the interest of any state and thereby need to be rectified, immediately.
Iran and Afghanistan have been facing law and order problems in their provinces adjacent to Pakistan. The sectarian and ethnic problems in these provinces also create a serious security challenge to the Pakistani law enforcement agencies in Federal Administrative Tribal Areas and Balochistan. Ironically, instead of addressing its internal sectarian problem, Tehran alleges its neighbours. Similarly, Kabul blames Islamabad for the failure its law enforcement agencies in restoring writ of the state, especially in eastern and southern provinces of Afghanistan. Precisely, both scapegoat Pakistan for shielding their own law enforcement agencies’ failure in checking the perilous activities of the dissident groups.
The Iranian ruling elite has failed to resolve the sectarian crisis in its eastern provinces. The dissident Sunni groups, occasionally, attack the law enforcement agencies in the peripheral regions or border areas. The dissident groups violently challenge the government writ in the Iranian Eastern (Sunni) provinces. It was reported that recently Jaish al Adl killed ten Iranian border guards last month. Tehran’s first response to the violent incident at the Pakistan-Iran border was pragmatic. Instead of rhetorically accusing anyone, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visited Islamabad on May 3, 2017. He shared his govt concerns with Islamabad.
The Pakistani ruling elite promised to resolve the crisis by improving the security of the border. According to the reports, Government of Pakistan agreed to deploy more troops on the Iran and Pakistan border to control the illegal cross-border smuggling, crime and militancy. This move was a right step in the right direction for sustaining and improving bilateral relations between neighbouring countries. It germinated optimism about the establishment of diplomatic and security cooperation over border management between Iran and Pakistan.
The situation derailed, when Iranian military general make unfriendly provocative statement. He signalled about the probability of hot-pursuit strategy to erase Jaish al Adl sanctuaries located on the Pakistani territory. On May 8, 2017, Major General Mohammad Baqeri, head of the Iranian armed forces warned “We expect the Pakistani officials to control the borders, arrest the terrorists and shut down their bases. If the terrorist attacks continue, we will hit their safe havens and cells, wherever they are.” Ironically, Iranian General failed to realize that such threatening statements are counterproductive.
Sporadically, exchange of fires happened on Iran-Pakistan border due to drug smuggling gangs, separatist and radicalised militants movement on the border. The criminal groups striking the border forces do not establish the connivance of the government of Pakistan in perpetrating such gruesome incidents. Therefore, the Iranian ruling elite needs to act responsibly instead of issuing the threatening statements. Since decades, Pakistan’s internal security has severely been undermined due to the internal crisis of Afghanistan. Islamabad fails to win the confidence of the Afghanistan Unity Government. President Ashraf Ghani, without realizing the limits of Pakistani law enforcement agencies, always questions the sincerity of Pakistani ruling elite and also makes difficult demands. However, the response of Islamabad is always friendly and constructive.
Recently, Pakistan sent three high level parliamentary and military delegations to Kabul to mitigate the mistrust and improve the bilateral relations. Regrettably, instead of responding positively, Afghan border and security forces opened fire on census staff and security personnel escorting them in Killi Luqman and Killi Jahangir, Chaman town of Balochistan. The retaliation by Pakistani forces was natural. Permanent border solution is imperative for stable bilateral relations. Currently, both sides expressed willingness to do joint geological survey of border villages to remove discrepancies. Islamabad needs to enhance its connectivity with Kabul and Tehran to resolve border issues amicably.
— The writer is Associate Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.
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