Thursday, June 4, 2009

IRAN SUSPECTS VIOLENCE IN ZAHIDAN IS PLANNED IN PAKISTAN

B. Raman

The Iranian authorities reportedly suspect that the May 28 explosion in the second biggest Shia mosque in Zahidan, capital of Sistan-Balochistan, the Sunni majority Baloch province of Iran, was planned by the Jundullah, a Sunni extremist organisation, from its sanctuary in Pakistan's Balochistan province. They claim that the three members of the Jundullah, who were executed in public after the suicide explosion, confessed during their interrogation that they brought the explosive device from Pakistan and gave it to the suicide bomber.

2. While the Iranian authorities accuse the Jundullah of acting at the behest of the US and Israel, other reports indicate that the Jundullah cadres are trained by the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ), a Sunni extremist organisation of Pakistan, in its training camps in South Waziristan in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan. The LEJ, whose involvement along with Al Qaeda was suspected in the huge explosion in the Marriott Hotel of Islamabad in September last year, has been operating jointly with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) headed by Baitullah Mehsud of South Waziristan.

3. The Iranian authorities, who have officially taken up with the Pakistani authorities their information about the terrorist infrastructure of the Jundullah in Pakistani territory, allege that Abdulmalek Rigi, whom they accuse of being the Amir of the Jundullah, operates from Pakistani territory.

4. Citing the Fars News Agency of Iran, the "Dawn" of Karachi reported on June 1, 2009, as follows: ' The chief of the Iranian armed forces, General Hassan Firouzabadi, said Iran had located the base of the group and informed the Pakistani Government of Abdulmalek Rigi’s position.....So far Jundullah has claimed responsibility for a dozen terrorist operations in Iran, however according to the FNA, they have managed to escape punishment by crossing into Pakistan. Tehran has warned Islamabad that it has the power and military means to trace and hunt down terrorist groups in Pakistan if such activity is not stopped by Pakistan. Since the suicide attack, Iran has closed down its border with Pakistan." The Pakistan Foreign Office has denied the "Dawn" report about the closing of the border.

5. The " News" of June 1, 2009, carried the following report by its well-informed correspondent Amir Mir: "The rising terrorist activities of the Pakistan-based militant organisation, Jundullah (Soldiers of God) threatens not only the Pak-Iran diplomatic ties but also the future of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project, which was signed on May 22 by President Asif Zardari and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran. According to well-placed diplomatic sources in Islamabad, Tehran has lodged a strong protest with Islamabad over the failure of its law enforcement agencies to dismantle the Jundullah network in Pakistan, which has claimed responsibility for the May 28 deadly suicide attack inside the Ameer al-Momenin mosque in Zahedan that killed 25 people and wounded 125 others. The sources said Iranian officials had expressed their deep concern over the failure of the Pakistani authorities to proceed against the Jundullah network in Pakistan despite having been given specific intelligence. The Pakistani Ambassador was told that the Zahedan suicide attack could have been averted had Islamabad acted in time on the Iranian intelligence information.The Iranian authorities had reportedly told the Pakistani Ambassador that the three terrorists (Haji Noti Zehi, Gholam Rasoul Shahi Zehi and Zabihollah Naroui), hanged publicly on May 30 in Zahedan for their alleged participation in the mosque bombing, had confessed to illegally bringing explosives from Pakistan into Iran and giving them to the main person behind the suicide attack. Diplomatic circles in Islamabad say Tehran's concern over the growing terrorist activities of Jundullah, across the border in Iran, could be gauged from the fact that its Ambassador to Pakistan Mashallah Shakeri had addressed an unusual press conference in Islamabad on March 20, accusing Pakistan of allowing its soil to be used against Iran and demanding concrete steps to contain its activities. While claiming that the Jundullah network was located inside the Balochistan province, Shakeri had asked Islamabad to curb its anti-Iran activities by taking a decisive action against its leadership. The Iranian Ambassador had given broad hints at that time that an Iranian diplomat, who had disappeared in Peshawar in 2008, could also have been kidnapped by Jundullah. In his reaction the same day, a Pakistani Foreign Office spokesman had stated that Islamabad was determined that the Pakistani soil would not be allowed to be used by Jundullah in any manner to destabilise the Iranian government. However, the diplomatic circles in Islamabad say the Iranian authorities had warned the Pakistani Ambassador to Tehran on May 30 that Islamabad's failure to act against the Jundullah network in Balochistan could also jeopardise the future of the recently-signed Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project. They pointed out that the Pakistani and the Iranian Presidents had only signed the initial agreement after 14 years of delayed negotiations and the most crucial gas sales and purchase agreement had not yet been finalised."

6. In the meanwhile, the Jundullah of Iran has disseminated the following statement: "Ayatollah Khamenaei, the supreme leader of Iran, officially interpreted the natural death of Fatema, the daughter of the holy Prophet, as martyrdom, thus justifying the actions of those who have organised Omar Denunciation Ceremonies. The ceremonies began about two months ago in Baluchistan where the majority of the people are Sunnis and resulted in widespread conflicts between Baluch Sunnis and Iranian security forces. The tension mounted when the People's Resistance Movement of Iran, Jondollah, initiated a bomb blast in a mosque that was dominated by the security forces and Iranian militia. The fanatics supported by the militia and security forces published huge posters in the streets and began denunciation speeches with mobile speakers in moving cars in different streets of Zahedan. Jondollah warned these groups to halt their offending ceremonies to one billion Moslems throughout the world but they ignored the warnings and continued displaying posters in their street gatherings. Other Baluch and Sunni leaders requested the Iranian authorities to prevent these provocative ceremonies but they did not stop. The Jondollah bombed the mosque that has become the centre of various provocations and the headquarters of these ceremonies after all other peaceful requests were exhausted. Ayatollah Khamenaei said a few weeks ago in Kurdistan that any action that may create divisions between Shias and Sunnis is treason, but now it is certain that he was behind all the offences that have been officially made against the second Caliph."

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com)

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