New Jihadist entity surfaces in Indian sub-continent

The fight between the activists of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and jihadist-terrorist organizations like Jundullah, Jaish-e Adl, and Pakistan-based Lashkars/Tahreeks is steadily dragging these nations towards an uncertain destination.
Keywords: Terrorist, Conflict, Iran, Pakistan, Jihadist, Kashmir, Organizations, Jaish-e Adl
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Border clashes

On the night of 3-4 April, Jaish-e Adl, a Sunni jihadist-terrorist group struck an Iranian Border Guard post in the Chahbahar and Rask areas of the Iranian Balochistan-Sistan province. Eleven Iranian Guards are reported to have been killed. Jays-e Adl has claimed responsibility and also given the reason for launching the attack. It says that the attack was in retaliation for the Iranian regime unleashing oppression against the Sunni minority in the country.

This is not the first border clash on the Balochistan-Sistan province border that touches the border line with Afghanistan and Pakistan. Way back in 2012, an obscure group calling itself Jundullah had launched an attack on an Iranian border post which caused some casualties on Iran’s side. The officials of the two countries met following the clash and they hushed up the matter. Both countries have been stoutly preaching Islamic fraternity in and outside OIC and they thought it prudent to hide from the eye of the world that there existed deep fissures in their bilateral relations essentially owing to factional diversity.

However, the simmering animus could not be kept hidden for too long. In January last, Iran struck at a Jaish-e Adl camp on the Balochistan-Sistan border and several activists of the terrorist group were killed in the attack. Two days later, Pakistani Air Force flying China-supplied fighters returned the attack on the Iranian Guard post and killed some Iranian Guard personnel. This was in retaliation for the attack of the Iranian forces.

Accusations and counter-accusations

The two neighbouring countries whose borders meet along Balochistan-Sistan province of Iran, have been going through a love-hate relationship for some time. Several factors are catalysing their mutual rivalry. Essentially at the root of differences lies the Shia-Sunni divide. At the official level, there may not be much importance attached to the factional aspect, but with the diehard Sunni jihadist-terrorist organizations having gained strength and immunity in Pakistan because of the patronage of the ISI and the army, the tension between the two neighbouring countries has risen. Take the case of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi of Pakistan. The manifesto of this jihadist-terrorist organization states in no ambiguous words that cleansing Pakistan of the Shia presence is strongly recommended. 

Another factor that has lent support to the ideology of Lashkar Jhangvi and it’s like-minded affiliates is the emergence of ISIS which preaches the creation of a Sunni Islamic Caliphate on the model of the Umayyad Caliphate. Its activists and suicide bombers are fiercely indoctrinated and prepared to undertake even self-annihilating activities anywhere in the world. The presence of ISIS in the region overtly or covertly does inspire the groups like Jaish-e Adl to carry forward the agenda of the ISIS ideologues of puritanical Islam.

ISIS had created a special branch in the region called ISIS-Khurasan or ISIS-K, which is not friendly either to the Taliban or to the Iranian regime of Ayatollahs. The Afghan Taliban are against ISIS because they do not find any merit in the concept of the Islamic Caliphate of ISIS. Taliban have a history of not fighting on any soil other than that of their country, Afghanistan. And Iran is their enemy because Iran mostly follows the Shia faith which is a red rag to ISIS. ISIS fighters are known for their ferocity and barbarism in promoting the Wahhabi-Salafi ideology through the Sunni medium and not through the Shia medium. This we have seen in the recent Kerman attack by Tajik fundamentalists trained in the extremist ideological environment of the  Pakistani madrasahs. 

As there seems to be commonality of ideology and a belief in austere lifestyles, ISIS-K is likely to grab the support of the rabid elements in any society or social group in the Khurasan region which encompasses Iran to its west and Kashmir to its north-east. 

Inducting proxies

The Middle East conundrum has been responsible for boosting the idea of war by proxy, something which may be rooted in the treatment colonial powers have meted out to the people of the region especially after oil was discovered in the Gulf region. It dragged the Middle East into global strategies with an impact on the life and economy of the people. War by proxy is a device for minimising the annoyance of superpowers or confronting them in a weak and slippery wicket. Countries like Iran and Pakistan imitated albeit grossly the practice of the West in raising proxies. Both raised trained, armed, and indoctrinated proxies known to the world as jihadist-terrorist activists. Pakistan has come to the stage of facing its proxies of which the TTP is a fine example. Tehran is tasting the bitter fruit through sanctions and political isolation. The fight between the activists of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and jihadist-terrorist organizations like Jundullah, Jaish-e Adl, and Pakistan-based Lashkars/Tahreeks is steadily dragging these nations towards an uncertain destination.


In a way, the outcome of this exercise is bizarre. Pakistan has imposed a ban on  Jaish-e Adl, calling it a terrorist organization. Islamabad has condemned the attack of the Jaish-e Adl in Chahbahar and Rask and vowed to take revenge. Islamabad calls the Jaish-e Adl a non-state actor in regions over which Islamabad has limited control. Therefore Islamabad keeps options open. The two neighbours are fighting each other through proxies. Iran launches an air strike on the base camps of Jaish-e Adl and Pakistan does not welcome the attack. Jaish-e Adl is a common enemy but the two do not come together to eliminate it. Except for Turkey, no other Sunni Islamic country supports Pakistan in its factional and ethnic politics. 

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K N Pandita

K N Pandita has a PhD in Iranian Studies from the University of Teheran. He is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University.

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