Islamabad needs to project robust counter-terrorism capabilities insofar as Afghanistan is concerned to check the misuse of Afghan territory against peace and stability in Pakistan.
The death of Aslam Achu, a commander of the terrorist group BLA, in Kandahar vindicated Pakistan’s consistent position that RAW & NDS are providing functioning safe heavens in Afghanistan to Pakistan-focused terrorist groups and that these groups have been involved in terrorism in Balochistan and in acts of subversion against CPEC.
Attack on the Chinese Consulate in Karachi by the proxy group BLA and an earlier failed attack on Chinese Engineers in Balochistan’s Dalbandin region clearly exposed the strategic motive of India to scare off Chinese investors and make Pakistan unstable for investment and economic take-off.
The second concern is active recruitment of Hazara youth from Quetta by Iranian intelligence to fight along Bashar Al-Assad’s forces as Tehran’s proxy in Syria.
Ironically, NATO and the US have kept mum on the Kandahar incident just as they did on the Kulbhushan Yadav issue. They have always looked the other way whenever the issue of safe heavens was raised with them. Many US diplomats summarily dismiss these concerns as a routine complaint. The Kandahar safe heaven is in a region where at least seven active training camps across Pakistan-Afghanistan border near Spin Boldak are actively sustaining proxy warfare in Balochistan.
Between USD100 and USD1000 are paid for various activities, ranging from firing rockets to targeting installations and projects. Cash is paid to militants and pro-RAW tribal chieftains via the illegal currency exchangers using Hundi or Hawala system. Militants are provided with fake passports and travel documents for moving into India, UAE and Western destinations from Afghanistan.
Aslam Achu also had an Afghan ID card. Dr Allah Nazar, another Baloch commander, is also believed to be in Afghanistan as per the provincial government sources. He regularly travels between Kabul and New Delhi, enjoying Afghan hospitality in a safe house. He has also been given an Afghan Tazkira-ID card to facilitate his travel inside and outside of Afghanistan.
Not surprising then that the government in Kabul, while adopting uncompromising tone towards Islamabad, has appointed an anti-Pakistan hawk, ex-spook and NDS Chief, Amrullah Saleh, as Interior Minister in the context of reconciliation efforts of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, UAE and the US, sending a message of prolonging the proxy war in Balochistan.
The Kandahar safe heaven is in a region where at least seven active training camps across Pakistan-Afghanistan border near Spin Boldak.
Appointment of Asadullah Khalid, also an ex-NDS chief, as the defence minister is another sign that hardliners in Kabul will be sustaining the proxy war hence making Balochistan an easy target for another wave of terrorism. The NDS/RAW nexus is well aware of the fact that the cost for Beijing of investing in Balochistan can exceed the benefits if the threat of Baloch militancy to the development of CPEC increases.
Thus they want to keep the province unstable. This is why the RAW, through its proxies, is terrorizing the citizens of Balochistan, and actively spreading propaganda against the Pakistani government, the army and the ISI. The potential drawdown from Afghanistan of half of the 14,000 US troops by 2020 will likely add to impending strategic void for non-state actors including TTA, TTP, BLA, ISIS and others to capitalize on.
Islamabad needs to project robust counter-terrorism capabilities insofar as Afghanistan is concerned to check the misuse of Afghan territory against peace and stability in Pakistan regardless of the outcome of political reconciliation, a process afoot between Afghan, regional and international stakeholders. There is going to be a divergence of interests in Afghanistan between Iran (notwithstanding the lurking fear that Tehran will be doubling down on its Afghan proxies in Afghanistan in the wake of possible precipitous US withdrawal), India and Russia on one hand; and Pakistan, China, Saudi Arabia and the UAE on the other.
Aslam Achu also had an Afghan ID card. Dr Allah Nazar, another Baloch commander, is also believed to be in Afghanistan as per the provincial government sources.
As far as the threat to peace in Balochistan is concerned, the Iranian connection is two-fold: first, the next active base around Balochistan is in Chabahar region which is being run by the RAW, which is sponsoring networks from Balochistan to Lyari gangs of Karachi. Local sources confirm that militants are trained in sabotage activities and targeted killings. Chabahar has become a safe zone to destabilize Balochistan and undermine CPEC right under the nose of Iran’s intelligence apparatus which will become a major concern for Pakistan in coming years.
The second concern is active recruitment of Hazara youth from Quetta by Iranian intelligence to fight along Bashar Al-Assad’s forces as Tehran’s proxy in Syria. And when they return to Pakistan, they will add to terrorism worries of the Pakistani state. They will likely be proficient in terms of carrying out attacks, will be more brutalized and prone to violence, would have developed a high degree of security awareness, and some will likely perpetuate the terrorist threat to Pakistan’s national security through radicalizing, fundraising and facilitation activities.
Notwithstanding these two concerns, Islamabad has interestingly managed to have friendly ties with Teheran. Nevertheless, like every nation, Pakistan has the right to be aptly worried about the strategic depth of terrorist outfits being provided by RAW and NDS in Afghanistan.
For now, Balochistan — which will assume greater importance with the functioning of Gawadar Port, underpinning the flagship project of China’s BRI Initiative — has been encircled by terror bases operating from Kandahar to Chabahar by India. BLA’s base camp in Kandahar is the latest proof, after Kulbhushan Jadhav’s network.
Jan Achakzai is a geopolitical analyst and a politician. He served as an advisor to previous Balochistan government on media and strategic communication. He remained associated with the BBC World Service in London covering South and West Asia. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.