Militant leader says IRGC supporting terror attacks inside Pakistan

By Zarak Khan

Members of the Jaish al-Adl militant group. [File]

Members of the Jaish al-Adl militant group. [File]

The Iranian regime has been sponsoring Pakistani militant groups and providing them safe haven on Iranian soil to carry out terror attacks inside Pakistan, said the top leader of the Iranian militant group Jaish al-Adl.

Leaders and foot soldiers of Pakistan's Baloch militant groups who took refuge in Iran after fleeing Pakistani military operations have "fallen into the trap of the Iranian regime and the IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps]" and have become "a tool of this regime", Hossein Baloch, the spokesperson of Jaish al-Adl, said in a November interview with the Midstone Centre for International Affairs (MCIA), a UK-based security think-tank.

Baloch also alleged that in return for this protection, the IRGC has been using Pakistani militant groups, such as the Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) and Baloch Republican Army (BRA), to assassinate and attack leaders and members of Iranian Sunni Baloch groups.

Baloch cited a June 2021 "co-ordinated joint attack [by Pakistani Baloch militants], with the support of IRGC forces, on one of our bases", without saying if the base was in Pakistan or Iran. He also noted a 2017 assault by the BLF and BRA on Jaish al-Adl forces in Bam Pasht, Iran.

Betraying Iran's Baloch minority

In siding with Tehran, the BLF and BRA are strengthening a regime that victimises their brethren in Iran.

BLF chief Allah Nazar and BRA chief Brahumdagh Bugti have released statements against Jaish al-Adl and claimed responsibility for the 2017 attack on Jaish al-Adl in Iran, said Baloch.

"Due to their weaknesses, unfortunately, these [Pakistani militant] groups have become unpaid soldiers of the IRGC," Baloch said.

Jaish al-Adl, formed in 2012, is a Sunni outfit that has claimed responsibility for bombings and abductions of elite Iranian troops. The group says it is battling Iranian discrimination against Sunni Muslims and ethnic Baloch in Sistan and Baluchestan.

Pakistani authorities have already found evidence that militants are using safe havens in Iran to launch attacks in Pakistan following the arrest of several militants of proscribed Baloch militant groups for their involvement in terror attacks.

Balochistan's Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) and other law enforcement agencies in a joint raid in Kharan district on October 28 arrested Shafqatullah Jhalanzai, a Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) member, for alleged involvement in the killing of Noor Muhammad Meskanzai, a former chief justice of the Balochistan high court.

Muhammad was shot and killed in Kharan city, Balochistan province, on October 14 at a mosque.

In a video statement released by the CTD and seen by Pakistan Forward, Jhalanzai confessed that he had received training for militant activities in Sarvan, Sistan and Baluchestan province, Iran.

Pakistani authorities blamed Tehran for allowing militant groups to operate from safe havens in its territory following attacks in February.

Militants from the BLA on February 2 staged twin assaults on army posts in Noshki and Panjgur districts, Balochistan. The BLF on January 25 killed 10 security personnel in Kech district.

Then-Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad in a written reply submitted in response to questions from the National Assembly in March confirmed that banned militant groups were regrouping via Sistan and Baluchestan.

Pakistani militant groups are "beneficiaries of Iran's lenient attitude towards them because Iranian security forces have given protection and refuge to them and other Baluch [Baloch] rebel groups", the Jamestown Foundation, a Washington-based think-tank, said in March.

The Pakistani groups have used this protection to attack Jaish al-Ad, the think-tank said in its March report.

Fuelling unrest

Islamabad's patience with Tehran has worn thin in recent years over cross-border ethnic and sectarian militancy and Iranian interference in Pakistani affairs.

The IRGC formed the Zainabiyoun Brigade, a militia comprised of Pakistanis sent to fight in Syria in support of Bashar al-Assad's regime, in 2014. In July, the Pakistani government formally blamed the Zainabiyoun Brigade for terror activities, particularly the killing of clerics of rival sects, inside Pakistan.

Though the Zainabiyoun Brigade has yet to be banned in Pakistan, the government has proscribed two lesser-known Shia outfits, Ansar-ul-Hussain and its offshoot, Khatam-ul-Anbia, under the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 in 2016 and 2020, for their links with Syrian war recruiting.

In a security crackdown in February, Pakistani authorities discovered links between Pakistani money launderers and Iranian intelligence.

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) February 9 arrested a senior official of the Karachi-based House Building Finance Corporation, a housing finance company, a subsidiary of the State Bank of Pakistan.

The official was detained for alleged involvement in "conducting hundi and hawala business for Iranian intelligence", Dawn reported.

That arrest came after authorities busted a racket of hawala and hundi businesses in Karachi, arresting 13 suspects and seizing amounts of foreign and local currencies equal to tens of millions of rupees, according to an FIA official in Karachi.

"Several Pakistani intelligence agencies have been sharing information about the growing influence of Tehran in Pakistan's internal security affairs," the official said on the condition of anonymity.

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