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Is Iran helping Baloch rebels to mount attacks on Pakistan army?

Unprecedented violence rages in Balochistan (Photo: Twitter/SaleemMehsud)

In one of its rare public divulgences, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said on Wednesday that four Pakistani security personnel were killed in firing across the Pakistan-Iran border in Balochistan’s Panjgur district.

The Pakistani army’s public relations agency said Baloch militants used Iranian territory to “target a convoy of security forces patrolling along the border”. It added that Pakistan has asked Iran to hunt down the terrorists on their side.

Dismissing the Pakistani army’s claims, Baloch rebel group Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF) said that it attacked a convoy of the Pakistani army with heavy weapons. The BLF statement said: “Nine of the ten personnel in the vehicle were killed on the spot while the driver was injured who crashed the vehicle into a nearby ditch”.

 The BLF dismissed the ISPR’s claims in a sarcastic rebuttal. Major Gwahram Baloch, spokesperson of the BLF, said: “The occupying state still does not know the geography of Balochistan. Today’s attack took place in the Mand area of occupied Balochistan but the spokesman of the Pakistani army, ISPR, declared it as Panjgur area”.

India Narrative spoke with a number of experts to understand the happenings on the volatile Iran-Pakistan border, which had grabbed international spotlight September-October after major clashes in the Zahedan province.

Australia-based journalist Manish Rai said: “This incident is strange. It is possible that the BLF attacked the Pakistani soldiers from inside the Pakistan border itself with long range weapons. But at the same time the BLF, which is headed by Dr Allah Nazar, is known to have bases in Iran”.

He added that: “On the other hand there is a possibility that Iran is giving the BLF tacit support because Pakistan also supports Suni organisations in Iran specially near the border areas. Therefore, it is entirely possible that Iran is retaliating against Pakistan because it has been quite a while that Islamabad has been accusing Tehran of supporting the Baloch rebels”.

The BLF is known to be the oldest Baloch rebel group and was formed in 1963-1964 in Jumma Khan in Syria in Damascus. It is also known to be the second most lethal group among the Baloch rebel organisations that are working against Pakistan.

Pakistan watcher and geo-strategic analyst Mark Kinra also agrees with the fact that lately Pakistan has been blaming Iran. Kinra said: “Earlier the Pakistani establishment used to name India for separatist activities in Balochistan but now their journalists and intellectuals are naming Iran without suggesting why Iran would do it considering that Tehran has its own Baloch movement”.

Kinra says that any support by Iran to the Baloch insurgents will boomerang in its restive Sistan-Baluchistan province that borders Pakistan.

Complicated by shifting sands of ethnic, sectarian and nationalist movements, and also violence, the two neighbors have been involved in border skirmishes, often using the different shades of terror organisations to inflict injury on the other side.

Kinra says: “We should not ignore that Pakistan has given ground to Sunni terror group Jaish-ul-Adl which has attacked Iran in the past. Interestingly, in 2021 Iran carried out a surgical strike inside Pakistan to free it’s kidnapped border guards who had been taken hostage in Pakistan by Jaish-ul-Adl”.

Also Read: Unrest in Iran grows as Zahedan violence fuels Baloch movement