Interim Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani met his Iranian counterpart, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, in Islamabad earlier this week, with both officials informing a joint press conference they had decided to put recent border unrest in perspective, based on information both countries had failed to interpret properly in the past. Abdollahian, in particular, suggested a “third country” instigated the unrest. During their press talk, Jilani and Abdollahian asserted Islamabad and Tehran respected each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, adding they would expand security cooperation to mend ties after their tit-for-tat missile strikes on militant targets.
The diplomatic exchange has shed further light on the terrorism Iran has facing on its territory, to little notice of the world. In 2009, Pakistan handed over Iranian Abdul Malik Regi—who led the militant Jandullah—to Tehran, with his execution bringing the organization’s operations to a halt. In 2012, it was replaced by Jaish al-Adl, which remained mostly dormant until Sept. 30, 2022, when it secured a new lifeline following a state crackdown on protesters in the southeastern Iranian city of Zahedan. According to Human Rights Watch, “security forces, using unlawful lethal force, killed and wounded several dozen protesters in Zahedan.” The incident brought new recruits for Adl, which proceeded to stage several terrorist attacks in Iran, even as the Islamic State in the Khorasan Province also targeted the country. Most of the fighters involved in these attacks were of Tajik origin.
The Islamic State offensive was a result of Iran’s fight against them in Syria and Iraq, as well as their targeting of Shia Muslims across South Asia, including in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. In a wise move, Pakistan and Iran have now put these developments in perspective, with their respective foreign ministers underlining the imperative for “collective and collaborative” approaches to confront terrorism posing a common challenge to both countries. The Iranian minister has also stressed on leveraging robust institutional mechanisms between the neighbors for security cooperation. In this regard, they have agreed to appoint liaison officers in Turbat and Zahedan to further strengthen ongoing security and intelligence cooperation, as well as establishing a Joint Coordination Mechanism at the ministerial level to oversee and steer progress on a common agenda of prosperity and development. Pakistan has also wisely renewed its invitation to Iran President Ebrahim Raisi to visit Pakistan, which would undoubtedly further boost their ties and help resolve any lingering tensions.