BLAMING the nebulous ‘foreign hand’ for creating trouble within our borders is an age-old method used by the security agencies to shift the responsibility, often for their own lapses, elsewhere. While there may indeed be some truth to these claims, questions arise about what the proper method of addressing them should be, especially if a friendly country is supposedly involved, while we also need to ask ourselves what is fuelling such external hostility towards Pakistan. In the case of the May 12 Saddar blast, officials of Sindh’s Counter Terrorism Department told the media that the suspected terrorist responsible for the blast — who was recently killed in an ‘encounter’ — was trained in Iran. Belonging to the banned Sindhudesh Revolutionary Army, the officials said the militant was financed and trained by Indian intelligence, and that the Iranian authorities were not involved in the anti-Pakistan activities. The claims have been rejected by the Iranian embassy in Pakistan, which said the allegations were made without providing evidence. In the past, other acts of violence within Pakistan have also been linked to India — the Kulbushan Jadhav affair being the most high-profile — as well as to Afghan intelligence before the Taliban took Kabul last year.
If law enforcers have solid evidence linking acts of violence and terrorism to foreign states, this needs to be shared with the capitals concerned through diplomatic channels instead of being aired publicly, especially when it involves friendly countries. If such sensitive claims are aired in the media, much damage can be done to bilateral ties. The authorities also need to consider why an atmosphere of suspicion should envelop our ties with three neighbours. In the case of India, the mutual antagonism can be traced back decades, while the regime that ran Kabul before the Taliban takeover was also believed to be pro-India. But Pakistan-Iran ties are reasonably cordial. Ideally, along with increasing security internally, Pakistan needs to work on improving ties with its neighbours to help address the root causes of hostility that fuel destabilising activities.
Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2022