Every few months, there are reports from Quetta, that Iran has shot rockets into Pakistan. As far back as November 2012, there have been incidents of mortar shells being fired into Pakistan. The most recent reports of this are from 27th February and from yesterday, and news of the neighbour goes almost unreported in the media. Why are there no questions being asked? Why is Iran being belligerent? What sort of a cross-border terrorist problem do we have with Iran? Was Iran pursuing militants or criminals across the border that caused them to take action? Or was this just fireworks mistaken for rockets?

Economic and political relations are tense. Iran has completed its part of the gas pipeline, but Pakistan is still to start work on its part of the project. We are plagued by a lack of funds along and with western sanctions on Iran. No company is willing to work on the project, and Iran will not help with the funds and is now fining Pakistan $3 million per day as well as refusing to delay the deadline. On Pakistan’s part, there might be foul play due to pressure from Saudi Arabia to not complete the pipeline. Additionally, Nawaz Sharif on his visit to Iran in May was unable to secure any deadline extension or concessions from Iran. In fact, the trip put Pakistan in an embarrassing situation, when Iran refused to refuel the PM’s plane in Tehran until PIA paid outstanding payments amounting to about $5,000.

The pipeline might not be a great idea for Pakistan in the long run. Iran itself imports gas from Turkmenistan and the rates at which Pakistan will buy gas will be much higher than what the domestic consumer can afford. Last October, the Iranian Oil Minister announced serious gas shortages because of slow progress in raising levels of production from South Pars, which is the field that is supposed to fill the pipeline. Were such factors even taken into account when Pakistan agreed to the pipeline?

We have contentious borders with India and Afghanistan, and must avoid a third country in the region being aggressive towards us. Pakistan walks a tight line between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The recent incidents in Taftan will not help keep the international balance and Iran has closed borders with us. Pakistan’s minority Shia community has been targeted by Saudi-patronized sectarian terrorist groups, and Pakistan’s condemnation has been able to placate Iran till now and somehow, we have not seen any type of Iran backed counter-insurgency. Pakistan needs to sort out the pipeline issue pronto, before we are inundated with more unhappy neighbours and mortar shells.