The recent surge in target killings of Hazara community is apparently an attempt to subvert the move for building Iran-Pakistan and Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India energy pipelines.
Currently, Islamabad and Tehran are undertaking their gas pipeline project despite the US opposition and without India’s participation.
The attacks on Hazara community have been stepped up since Islamabad and Tehran committed to expedite efforts to implement the $7.5 billion IP gas pipeline project, the greater part of which will traverse the restive Balochistan province. In the latest sectarian attack this month, at least 14 Hazara people were dragged out from a bus, lined up and shot dead in Quetta.
This was the third attack after two major attacks on Hazaras last month in which at least 42 people were killed.
All the attacks have been claimed by militant outfit, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which, many believe, has close association with Jundallah group, a Sunni Muslim militant group fighting for the rights of Baloch population of Iran’s Sistan-Balochistan province, bordering Balochistan.
Instead of IP pipeline, the US has supported the construction of an alternative pipeline from Central Asia through Afghanistan to Pakistan and the Indian Ocean. Iran accuses the US of supporting Jundallah, which is believed to have bases somewhere in Balochistan.
So far, Jundallah has been involved in launching terror attacks in Sistan-Balochistan. Now Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is emerging as a new destabilising factor in Balochistan, where from the IP pipeline will make its first entry into Pakistan.
They intend to scare away potential investors in the IP pipeline.
A surge in Hazars’ killings came in the backdrop of US-Pakistan energy dialogue and Pakistan-Iran Joint Economic Commission (JEC) talks held in Islamabad last month and in both talks, the IP gas pipeline project was key agenda item.
Washington hardened its opposition to IP project and warned Pakistan of the possible impact of US and UN sanctions against Iran during the two-day US-Pakistan strategic dialogue on energy last month. The US instead offered Pakistan the assistance in TAPI gas pipeline project as alternate to IP pipeline.
Islamabad and Tehran signed a $7.5 billion agreement in Tehran on May 23, 2009, finalising the deal to transfer gas from Iran to Pakistan Exactly after five days on May 28, 2009, Iran closed its border with Pakistan following a suicide bomber attack on a mosque in Zahidan that killed 20 people. Jundallah had claimed responsibility for the blast. The diplomatic tension between the two countries mounted at a time when there was no outstanding issue impeding the project for laying a gas pipeline between the two countries.
By pressing Pakistan to shelve IP project, Washington can deprive Iran of the economic bonanza associated with its gas exports to Pakistan, India or China through pipelines, as without Pakistan’s participation, all the proposed pipeline projects from Iran via Pakistan, whether it be the IP, IPI or IPC (Iran-Pakistan-China) would not be feasible.