Perspectives on Pakistan
Iran presses Pakistan to curb militant groups
Pakistan is already under intense pressure from the United States and India to crack down on militant groups inside its borders. Now Iran has added its own pressure after 25 people were killed last week in the bombing of a Shi’ite mosque in Zahedan, in the southeast of the country towards the Pakistan border.
According to the Tehran Times, the Iranian foreign ministry summoned Pakistan’s ambassador to Iran to protest about the bombing, which it blamed on militants on Pakistan’s side of the border.
Pakistani newspaper The News International quoted diplomatic sources in Islamabad as saying the future of a gas pipeline from Iran to Pakistan could be jeopardised because of Tehran’s anger at what it saw as Pakistan’s failure to crack down on Sunni militants targeting Iran. It said Iran believed the mosque bombing could have been averted if Pakistan had acted on information provided by Iranian intelligence.
Dawn newspaper said Iran had partially shut its border with Pakistan, leading to a suspension of trade and causing hardship to the people in the area, in the restive Pakistani province of Baluchistan.
Pakistan and Iran have a long history of difficult relations, driven by Sunni-Shi’ite rivalry and by competition for influence in Afghanistan and in the broader Islamic world. But a summit meeting in Tehran last month between the presidents of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan was meant to help smooth over those differences. Plans for the Iran-Pakistan pipeline — giving Iran an export market for its gas and Pakistan much-needed energy — would give the two countries a powerful economic incentive to bury their political differences.
So the row over the Zahedan bombing comes at a particularly bad time, all the more so given that Pakistan desperately needs friends as it tries to tackle an Islamist insurgency within its borders. ”At this crucial time, we cannot afford a new diplomatic front,” said a post in the Pakistan blog Chowrangi.
(Photo: Presidents Karzai, Ahmadinejad and Zardari)