Khalid Iqbal The recent suicide attacks against a religious gathering in the Iranian port city of Chabahar by a Baloch militant outfit Jundallah, has once again brought out the frequently surfacing fault line in the Iran-Pakistan relations. The Iranian leaders used some very stern language in demanding the Pakistani government to act against the militant outfit. Iran is one of Pakistans closest friends, which has always stood with it in hard times. In the 2010 floods that played havoc, the Iranian government and its people extended helping hands in mitigating the sufferings of the affected people. While praying on the eve of Eid-ul-Fitr, the supreme leader, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, appealed to the Muslim world to help their Pakistani brethren during their hard times; his heartfelt emotions manifested in tears rolling down his cheeks. In a similar manner, Iran has taken a fresh policy initiative on Kashmir by mentioning it as an occupied territory. Over the preceding six months or so, Iran has supported the Kashmir struggle at least on three occasions, and has bracketed the situation in the occupied state with Gaza and Afghanistan. In his message to the Haj pilgrims, in 2010, Ayatollah Khamenei called upon the Muslims across the world to back the liberation movement in Kashmir. He said: Today the major duty of the elite of the Ummah is to provide help to the Palestinian nation, to sympathise and provide assistance to the nations of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Kashmir, to engage in struggle and resistance against the aggressions of the US and the Zionist regime. Iran has taken a principled stance; this indeed marks Irans comeback home in the context of its original Kashmir policy. Pakistan already has to deal with the US forces engaged in cross-border actions in FATA. The Pakistani people do not want to see problems on a third border and so their leadership will try to address the Iranian concerns. Over the last one year or so, there has been significant cooperation between Iran and Pakistan to apprehend Jundallahs leaders and main operatives; collaboration between the two has weakened the outfit. However, fresh attacks prove that Jundallah has yet not disintegrated. Besides, Iran is a major regional stakeholder in Afghanistan and Pakistan and wants to formulate a joint approach for sustainable peace in Afghanistan. Therefore, no strategy in the war-torn country is likely to succeed without the active participation of Iran. Indeed, it has shown pragmatism by quietly helping the Afghan government to offset its financial hardship. Kabuls admission about funds from Iran speaks volumes about how both sides are looking at a post-NATO Afghanistan. At the same time, speculations of a western military strike against Iran have been a matter of great concern to an average Pakistani. We believe that Iran has the right to pursue the development of nuclear energy for legitimate and peaceful purposes and that any dispute should be resolved through dialogue, rather than arm-twisting. However, the general impression in Pakistan is that the aggressive American posture towards Iran arises out of Israeli pressure that has been brought upon the US and European allies. Israel attacked and destroyed the Iraqi reactor in a pre-emptive action. In subsequent years, it has planned similar attacks on Pakistans nuclear facilities in collusion with India, which were thwarted by its military. Then during the recent years, it attacked a Syrian nuclear facility - all with absolute impunity. Anyway, Jundallah - not to be mixed up with the Pakistani group of the same name - is a secretive outfit based in a remote region infested with insurgencies. It is tribe based within the Rigi clan in Sistan-Balochistan, but there is not much information about it. It is believed that the Baloch minority, which lives across the Iran-Afghan-Pakistan border regions, who are seeking autonomy from their national governments, join the militant groups. Jundallah means Soldiers of God, but the group also calls itself the Peoples Resistance Movement of Iran. Most of the Baloch tribes, including Marri, Narouie, Shahnavaz, Gamshadzai and Shahbakhsh, oppose Jundallah, due to general tribal rivalries. So it does not have any major support among the tribes in Afghanistan or Pakistan. Reportedly, Jundallahs funding comes mostly from Iranian Baloch expatriates worldwide. Some of that money could come from other sources, such as US supporters, and be distributed via the expatriates. It also benefits from Sistan-Balochistans economy, which is based on cross-border trade i.e. smuggling. A large portion of Afghanistans opium travels through this part of Iran, and the Rigis allegedly have agreements with the Afghan drug barons to provide a safe passage to export consignments in exchange for protection money. The group first gained notoriety in June 2005, when it claimed responsibility for an attack on a convoy of the Iranian security forces. But its defining moment was when it attacked President Ahmadinejads convoy in December 2005. This attack occurred just after his election as President because he was seen as less flexible with the Balochis than his predecessor, whose representatives had held discussions with the Jundallah leadership on issues like autonomy and access to high-level government jobs. But Ahmadinejad reversed this policy, thus increasing local support for the militant group. On the average, Jundallah carried out three to six attacks per year from 2006 to 2009. The targets usually were the security forces, though the civilians were always among the casualties. A tactical shift began towards the end 2008, when the group carried out its first suicide IED attack, hitting the security forces headquarters in Saravan. Then in May 2009, the Jundallah fighters detonated a suicide IED at a mosque in Zahedan, which was its first attack on a major civilian target. This proves that the group continues to have the capability to carry out trans-border operations. Nevertheless, the people of Pakistan will never forget the gestures of President Ahmadinejad and the people of Iran. They stand shoulder-to-shoulder with their Iranian brethren in their campaign against terrorism. Hopefully, the issue would be resolved between the two neighbourly countries to the chagrin of those who wish to see their tense relations grow worse. Therefore, it is essential that both the countries meticulously sidestep the land mines being laid by our common ill-wishers. The writer is a national security analyst. Email: khalid3408@gmail.com