- A PM not sure of himself
Of the two days devoted by the PM to the Iran visit one was consumed by what appears to be a spiritual call on the mausoleum of Imam Raza in Mashhad. For all practical purposes it was a single day visit to meet President Hassan Rouhani. High on the agenda of both leaders was the issue of the killings of the security personnel of Pakistan and Iran by terrorists operating from across the Pak-Iran border. In February a terrorist group orchestrated a suicide bombing which killed 27 members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards near the border with Pakistan. Iranian government maintained the group had operated from inside Pakistan. Fourteen Pakistanis, mostly comprising security personnel, were killed last week near Ormara by a terrorist group operating from inside Iran. Iran accused an Arab country of patronising terrorists who use Pakistani territory to launch attacks inside Iran. Pakistan accuses India of financing the groups that conduct attacks inside Balochistan from Iran. Relations between Iran and Pakistan consequently continue to be marked by mistrust and tension. Unless Iran and Pakistan manage to allay each other’s suspicions, it might not be possible to reset the ties.
Iran and Pakistan can increase mutual trade; better relations can ensure safe borders for both; Iran has also shown keenness to join the CPEC which can bring it closer to Pakistan. Pakistan needs good relations with the Gulf Arab governments too. This requires a farsighted and non-partisan policy.
PM Khan said that the most important agenda item on his Iran visit was the issue of terrorism which could become a divisive part of the two countries’ bilateral relations and increase differences between them. Unless leaderships from both countries succeed in allaying each other’s reservations regarding the alleged backing given to terrorist’s groups on their respective soil, there is little hope of any meaningful development in their ties. Feeling powerless to do so, Imran Khan has passed the buck to Gen Bajwa despite the latter’s three-day visit to Iran in November having done little to end complaints of border violations from both sides. It is for the political leadership to find a way out or be considered incompetent.