IT is a considerable challenge for the government to clamp down on militant groups that terrorise the Pakistani people and attack symbols of the state.
But when such non-state actors, reportedly based in this country, cross borders and commit acts of terrorism in neighbouring states, Pakistan is put in an even more difficult situation.
On Tuesday, a day before the visit of Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to Pakistan, militants belonging to the Jaishul Adl outfit reportedly crossed the border from Balochistan and attacked security personnel inside Iran, killing at least eight border guards.
Take a look: Eight Iranian guards killed in ‘Jaish-ul-Adl’ attack
While we cannot definitively say the ambush was planned to coincide with Mr Zarif’s visit, the timing was ironic — and embarrassing — for Pakistan.
Iranian officials claim the militants crossed back into Pakistan and the seriousness of the incident can be gauged by the Iranian foreign ministry’s statement that border security would also be on Mr Zarif’s agenda in Islamabad.
The Iranian government also lodged a protest with Pakistani diplomats in Tehran on Wednesday.
Such cross-border incidents are among the major irritants that stand in the way of improved relations between Islamabad and Tehran.
This is not the first attack of its kind, as militants carried out a similarly deadly raid in 2013, while Iranian guards have also been kidnapped in the past by militants reportedly based in Pakistan.
Along with creating a rift between both countries through such activities, militants belonging to groups such as Jundallah and Jaishul Adl are also believed to be involved in sectarian violence inside Pakistan.
Therefore, to maintain its obligations to its neighbour and for its own security, it is imperative for Pakistan to seriously tackle the issue of cross-border militancy.
While there have been several militant attacks that have affected bilateral relations negatively, there have also been occasions where Pakistani authorities have played a major role in tracking down anti-Iran militants.
Among these was the capture of Abdul Salam Reki of Jundallah earlier this year, who was apprehended by local security forces from a bus near Quetta. His capture proved that concerted, intelligence-based efforts can neutralise such violent elements.
Some security experts have also called for the reformation of the ‘A’ and ‘B’ policing areas in the districts bordering Iran.
Pakistan will need to work with Tehran and improve security in sensitive border regions to ensure its soil is not used by terrorist groups to cause trouble across the border.
Published in Dawn, April 9th, 2015