The United States isn’t the only nation with military designs on Pakistan’s western-most province of Balochistan.
Following yesterday’s massive suicide bombing in Iran’s border province of Sistan-Balochistan, Iran’s parliament is reportedly expressing consensus that retaliation against Jundallah could lead to launch military operations on the Pakistani side of the border.
A Baloch separatist movement with a significant presence on both sides of the border, Jundallah has a history of ties with al-Qaeda but over the past several years has gotten closer with the United States government. Both are long-standing foes of the Iranian government and as a result, Jundallah’s violent operations have chiefly occurred on the Iranian side of the border.
Already contending with insurgencies across virtually its entire northern border, Pakistan has largely tried to avoid direct conflict in Balochistan, which has left Jundallah with free rein to operate in the region, and Iran with a growing complaint about the source of the attacks on its eastern frontier.
The Pakistani government is now reportedly claiming that Jundallah has forged ties with the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), surprising as the one group seeks independence and the other emphasizes the territorial cohesion of Pakistan. The TTP has likewise shown little inclination to pick fights with Iran, focusing chiefly on the Pakistani government and the US, which has been launching drone strikes into its territory.
It may simply be a matter of the Pakistani government trying to link Jundallah with a group it is already fighting to quiet the push for action, but if the new militant alliance turns out to be real, it could dramatically broaden the battle inside Pakistan.