Sunday Telegraph: Pakistan, one of America’s most important allies in the war on terror, has blamed Iran for fuelling a growing insurgency in Baluchistan, the strategically sensitive province where militant tribesmen have recently launched a series of terrorist attacks.
Officials in Islamabad believe Iran is encouraging “intruders” from its own Bal-och community to cross the 550-mile Sunday Telegraph
By Massoud Ansari in Karachi
Pakistan, one of America’s most important allies in the war on terror, has blamed Iran for fuelling a growing insurgency in Baluchistan, the strategically sensitive province where militant tribesmen have recently launched a series of terrorist attacks.
Officials in Islamabad believe Iran is encouraging “intruders” from its own Bal-och community to cross the 550-mile border with the Pakistani province, and give support to the rebels.
“All this violence is a part of a greater conspiracy,” a senior government official told The Telegraph. “These militants would not be challenging the government so openly without the back-up of a foreign hand.”
Pakistan’s support would be important for any United States-led action against Iran, whose fundamentalist regime was last week put firmly in the sights of the second Bush administration by the vice-president, Dick Cheney, who said: “You look around the world at potential trouble spots – Iran is right at the top of the list.”
Pakistan’s ISI intelligence service set up a unit in the provincial capital, Quetta, last year to monitor suspected Iranian activity in Baluchistan. Officials say that in addition to directly supporting the insurgency, Teheran’s state-controlled radio has launched a propaganda campaign against Islamabad.
“Radio Teheran broadcasts between 90 and 100 minutes of programmes every day which carry propaganda against the Pakistan government,” said a former interior minister. He added that Iran was suspected of providing financial, logistical and moral backing for the insurgency.
Iran is said to be taking advantage of unrest among tribesmen who claim to have been denied the benefits of Baluchistan’s natural gas fields. Earlier this month, rebels disrupted gas production in a series of rocket and mortar attacks, which killed eight people. However, Islamabad is delaying a formal complaint to Teheran in the hope that private diplomatic channels may prove more effective. Meanwhile, large numbers of troops are hunting rebels in the province.
In the latest attack, a bomb exploded near an army lorry in a crowded market in Quetta yesterday, killing eight civilians and a soldier – an assault that Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, the country’s information minister, blamed on “enemies of Pakistan”.
Pakistani officials believe that Teheran already furious at Pakistan’s support for the US-led war on terrorism has stepped up its activity in Baluchistan because of its anger at the construction of a vast deep-water port at Gwadar, close to the border, which it fears could be used by Washington as a base for monitoring Iran. America believes that Iran is pursuing an advanced nuclear weapons programme in addition to sponsoring terrorism, and has repeatedly accused Teheran of fomenting trouble within Iraq. Last week, the journalist Seymour Hersh reported in the New Yorker that US special forces had carried out recent reconnaissance missions inside Iran to identify nuclear, chemical and missile sites that could be targeted.
Although the Bush administration brushed aside the claims, the report heightened the belief that America is preparing to take action.