The Zeitgeist Politics

Global Politics with a focus on The Middle East

The Iran-Pakistan conundrum

with 9 comments

I’ve had a post brewing in my head about developments in Iran-Pak all day long – had to shove thoughts of Jundullah aside to blog about the Islamabad bombings – but this tweet just reminded me of why I needed to write in the first place.


The attack on the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps on Sunday, which killed 43 people including senior officers, has led to quite a disaster for the already-besieged-with-problems Pakistan. Iran, which has blamed (in not so many words) the United States, the United Kingdom and Pakistan for the attack, has been going back and forth with Pakistan on the root of the problem: Jundullah.

The group – based in Pakistan’s Balochistan province – has taken responsibility for the attack. In a nutshell, Iran wants Pakistan to hand over its leader, Abdolmalek Rigi, over to the Iranian authorities. On the other hand, Pakistan denies that Rigi is in Pakistan. A Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesperson told AFP:

‘We don’t know the whereabouts of Rigi,’ said the Pakistan spokesman. ‘As Interior Minister Rehman Malik said, Rigi is not in Pakistan,’ he added.

Pakistan has a lot at stake here. The country enjoys a stellar relationship with Iran – save for the rows they get into over Jundullah – and that relationship has been built further during Zardari’s presidency. The much-talked about Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline deal could see a delay if the row isn’t resolved soon. To add, the Iranian Parliament has demanded Ahmedinajad to freeze aid to Pakistan, which is to the tune of 300 million dollars for counter-terrorism assistance.

It is also via Iranian legislators that the idea of a military operation inside Pakistan came about:

Isna quoted a lawmaker from Sistan-Baluchestan, Payman Forouzesh, as saying: “There is unanimity about the Revolutionary Guards and the security forces engaging in operations in any place they would deem necessary.”

Apparently referring to agreement among lawmakers, he said: “There is even unanimity that these operations (could) take place in Pakistan territory.”

I don’t think that Iran, despite being furious over the attack, will actually allow IRGC to cross over into Pakistan and begin ground operations here. Instead, I assume that Pakistan will try and find some Jundullah members and hand them over to Iran and try and appease Iran in any way possible.

Meanwhile, the two friends have been talking.

The way we were (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

The way we were (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday urged his Pakistani counterpart to confront the rebels, saying the “presence of terrorist elements in Pakistan is not justifiable.”

“The Pakistani government should help to quickly arrest these criminals so they can punished,” Ahmadinejad told Asif Ali Zardari during a telephone call received from the Pakistani leader.


Zardari called the incident “gruesome and barbaric” and pledged full Pakistani support to fight the militants, according to a statement from his office.

But remember, the Revolutionary Guards want Abdolmalek Rigi

The head of the Guards, General Mohammad Ali Jafari, said on Monday that Tehran will demand that Pakistan hand over Jundallah leader Abdolmalek Rigi, who is accused of being the mastermind of the bombing.

Jafari said a Tehran delegation will head to Pakistan to deliver “proof to them so they know that the Islamic Republic is aware of its (Pakistan’s) support” to the group led by Rigi.

Lets see what the next few days bring to this state of affairs. President Zardari, your move?


Written by Saba Imtiaz

October 21, 2009 at 4:43 am

9 Responses

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  1. This is also a classic photo:

    How do you think the movement in Balochistan will react to the Pakistan government if they hand over Jundullah leaders?


    October 21, 2009 at 5:26 am

    • I know, I can’t wait to use it one of these days! Depends – I don’t think Pakistan will hand someone major over (or if they even have the capability to take Abdolmalek out) so let’s see. But if they do, it won’t bode well for either Pakistan or Iran.

      Saba Imtiaz

      October 21, 2009 at 5:40 am

  2. do you happen to know if there is any truth to the claim on long war journal that there are actually two jundullah’s… one based in Pakistan with an Al-Qaeda link, and the other, headed by Rigi, which is more of a Baloch nationalist group and that Iran is deliberately conflating the two to build up a case against Pakistan. Everything out there on Rigi’s links to the ISI and the US is so vague that it’s difficult to know what’s what. I thought this article at the bbc was interesting


    October 21, 2009 at 5:53 am

    • Based on the research I’ve done, there are two Jundullahs. I’m not sure if it is just Iran that is combining the two. Pakistan did the same as well, according to Amir Mir, if anyone wants to believe him. ( Because of the similar names there’s a lot of confused reporting out there, but there are definitely two.

      Saba Imtiaz

      October 21, 2009 at 6:01 am

  3. I think that Iran and Pakistan should discuss ways to halt the flow of weapons and funding to Jundullah. I remember reading about a Dan Rather investigation that found that the Balochi diaspora in Sweden was providing financing to Jundullah.

    Also, some joint counter-terrorism operations on Pakistani soil would be beneficial for both Iran and Pakistan. Needless to say, Iran knows how to do counter-terrorism better than Pakistan. The only terrorist attacks that occur inside Iran either originate in Iraq or in Pakistan.

    Iran does not have the same kind of internal terrorist infestation that Pakistan has; thus, it is in Pakistan’s interests to learn from Iran about how to conduct successful counter-terrorism operations.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with the IRGC operating on Pakistani soil. If the Green Berets, Delta Force, US Marines Corps, CIA, and Blackwater can do it, then Iran should not be left out of the party.


    October 21, 2009 at 7:23 am

  4. vg


    October 21, 2009 at 1:03 pm

  5. thanks, saba
    I also found this profile of jundullah (link is a pdf) in case you haven’t read it


    October 21, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    • Thanks Rabia!

      Saba Imtiaz

      October 22, 2009 at 1:49 am

  6. […] comes in a series of several back-and-forth statements from Iran and Pakistan on the Jundullah issue – the group that attacked the IRGC on October 18 and killed 42 people.  Following the attack, Iran […]

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