Islamabad, Jan 18 (The Street Press) – On Thursday, Pakistan responded to recent tensions by launching strikes on separatist militants inside Iran. This came just two days after Tehran reported striking bases of a different group within Pakistan.
According to Iranian media, multiple missiles struck a village in the Sistan-Baluchestan province, bordering Pakistan. Tragically, at least nine people lost their lives, including four children.
The back-and-forth strikes mark the most significant cross-border incidents in recent years, causing concerns about broader instability in the Middle East. These tensions have intensified since the outbreak of the conflict between Israel and Hamas on Oct. 7.
Despite the tensions, both sides seem to express a willingness to contain the situation. Iran’s foreign ministry, on Thursday, emphasized commitment to good neighborly relations with Pakistan while urging Islamabad to prevent the formation of “terrorist bases” on its soil. Similarly, Pakistan issued a statement, clarifying that the action taken aimed at securing its own safety and national interests, emphasizing their paramount importance.
The ministry reported that an intelligence-based operation resulted in the elimination of several terrorists, describing the strikes as precise and coordinated military actions against terrorist hideouts. However, Tehran strongly condemned the strikes, citing civilian casualties. As a response, Pakistan’s charge d’affaires, the highest-ranking diplomat in Iran, was summoned to provide an explanation.
Iran’s Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi conveyed that the received information reveals the unfortunate loss of four children, three women, and two foreign national men in the village explosion, as reported on state TV. Meanwhile, in Islamabad, a foreign ministry spokesperson announced that Pakistan’s caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-haq Kakar would curtail his visit to the World Economic Forum in Davos and return home.
The precision strikes utilized killer drones, rockets, loitering munitions, and stand-off weapons, as stated in a release by the Pakistani military. The targets were bases associated with the Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) and the Baloch Liberation Army. Iran had claimed hitting Jaish al Adl (JAA) bases inside Pakistan on Tuesday. While all targeted groups are ethnically Baloch, the connection between JAA and the other two remains unclear. Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation, expressed that civilians were impacted, resulting in the tragic loss of two children. In protest against the perceived sovereignty breach, Islamabad recalled its ambassador from Iran on Wednesday.
Against the backdrop of the Gaza conflict, Iran and its allies demonstrated strength in the region, preceding their incursion into Pakistan. Iran conducted strikes in Syria, targeting alleged Islamic State sites, and in Iraq, claiming to hit an Israeli espionage center. In Yemen, the Iran-backed Houthi militia targeted shipping in the Red Sea, citing solidarity with Palestinians since November. Despite recent diplomatic meetings between Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and Pakistan’s Kakar in Davos, analysts cautioned about the potential for escalation in the region.
Asfandyar Mir, a senior expert on South Asia security at the U.S. Institute of Peace, stated to Reuters that Iran’s motive for attacking Pakistan remains unclear, but given broader Iranian behavior in the region, the situation could escalate. He noted that what might cause concern in Tehran is Pakistan crossing a line by hitting inside Iranian territory, a threshold even the U.S. and Israel have been cautious not to breach.
Russia’s foreign ministry urged both Pakistan and Iran to exercise maximum restraint and resolve their differences through diplomacy. Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, after discussions with counterparts from both countries, mentioned that neither side desired an escalation of tensions.
The targeted militant groups operate in the region spanning Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province and Iran’s southeastern Sistan-Baluchestan province. Both areas are characterized by unrest, mineral wealth, and limited development.
The Baloch Liberation Front (BLF), targeted by Islamabad inside Iran, is actively engaged in an armed insurgency against the Pakistani state. This includes attacks on Chinese citizens and investments in Balochistan.
Jaish al Adl, the group targeted by Iran, is also an ethnic militant group with Sunni Islamist leanings perceived as a threat by predominantly Shi’ite Iran. The group has carried out attacks against Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard Corps.