In 1979, Iran went through a so-called Islamic Revolution that saw the ouster of Iran’s king, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, and the instalment of Ayatollah Khomeini as the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic. There is no doubt that the Arab states, particularly the Saudi Arabia, due to this development, remained watchful. They were also afraid of its extension into the neighbouring countries, including Pakistan.  And Balochistan, being the largest province of the country, shares an approximately 900 kilometre long porous border with Iran. Moreover, Iran’s Seistan-Balochistan province abundantly contains the population of Sunni Baloch in a Shia state. That is why, as independent analysts say, the Saudi-Iran proxy war started in Balochistan in 1979.

After the Iranian Revolution, Shia elements wanted to spread it into Pakistan in general and Balochistan in particular. But against it, Saudi Arabia strongly resisted and pumped billions of rupees for countering it. Already, during 1970s period, Saudi Arabia had expanded its influence in the country in the regime of Former Dictator General Zia-ul-Haq (1977-1978). Subsequently, the sectarian violence broke out in Balochistan in mid 1980s, engulfing the Shia Hazara community of Balochistan. They (the Shia Hazaras) are densely populated in the Quetta city in its western and eastern sides: Mariabad and Hazara Town. After that, piece by piece, assaults against them increased. “In the mid 1980s there were religious tensions between Shia Hazaras and Sunni Pashtun groups in Quetta in which dozens were killed, and this tension and accompanying violence have persisted since then,” writes noted Pakistani journalist, Khaled Ahmed, in his book titled, ‘Sectarian War: Pakistan’s Sunni-Shia Violence and Its Links to the Middle East’.

But after former Chief Minister of Balochistan Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti’s killing, in 2007 and 2008, 37 Shia Hazaras, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), became targets of sectarian violence. Their fatalities intensified tremendously in 2009. According to a report issued by the Human Rights Watch (HRW), more than 1000 Shia Hazaras have died in different incidents of sectarian violence in Balochistan.

On the other hand, Abdul Malik Reki, who was ethnically a Baloch had allegedly formed a Sunni sectarian group in 2003 called the Jundullah (Soldiers of God). The group is said to be responsible for killing the Iranian sectarian forces. According to some media reports, it is said that the group later widened its targets to include the Iranian civilians, too. Moreover, the above-mentioned group claimed that it was fighting for rights, as well as for the defense of the oppressed Sunni Balochis from the aggression of the predominantly Shia Iran state.  

It is to be noted that the Iranian authorities, on many occasions, accused the group of being the a proxy of its rival countries. But the group leader denied these charges. “Reki changed colours after interactions with the banned Pakistani group, Sepah-e-Sahaba, in Liyari town of Karachi. His anti-Iranian stance as a Baloch shifted to one of being anti-Shiite. Not too long afterwards, he joined with Sepah’s breakaway faction, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the anti-Shiite Al-Qaeda linked militant outfit”, wrote slain journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad. “Through this connection, Reki went to the Afghan province of Zabul, but the Taliban refused him entry into their ranks because of their suspicion that he had forged links with the US intelligence.”

In 2010, when Abdul Malik Reki was caught and hanged by the Iranian authorities, the Jundullah group was divided up into three splinter groups: the Jaish-ul-Adl, the Jaish-ul-Nasr and the Lashkar-e-Khorasan. “Among these two splinter groups, the Jaish-ul-Adl, which is allegedly led by Abdul Rahim Mullah Zadeh (who uses a pseudonym name called Salah Al-Din Al-Faruqi), is stronger than other two,” said a Quetta based analyst, who did not wish to be named. Moreover, on April 8, 2015, the state-run Iranian news agency of Iran called IRNA reported that eight Iranian border guards had been killed in clashes with militants near the border with Pakistan. On the same very day, the Jaish-ul-Adl claimed responsibility for the assault through a Facebook account, which is believed to be associated with the organisation.

In the past, the Jaish-ul-Adl has also claimed responsibility for the deadly assaults on the territory of Iran. One of deadliest assaults was in October 2013, when 14 Iranian guards were killed near the Sarawarn area, which is situated on Pak-Iran border.  Following the deaths, Iran hanged 16 Sunni-Balochis in reprisal, though they did not have links with the group. Moreover, in the post Jundullah milieu, an unheard-of group, the Harakat Ansar Iran (HAI), also emerged. The group’s spokesman, Abu Hafs Al-Baluchi, recently warned of continued Jihad in a video against Iran.

Nevertheless, Asfandyar Wali, the president of the Awami National Party (ANP) rightly argues that Balochistan will be affected if Pakistan joins the Yemen war. He further added that the people of Balochistan would be the biggest victims of the Yemen war if the Army was sent to take part in the Yemen war. He also regretted that Pakhtuns were still bearing the brunt of the 1980s war, and Yemen’s war would weigh heavy on Balochistan.

There is no denying the fact that the Yemen war is not our war, so it is better that we stay away from it so that the people of Pakistan, in general, and Balochistan in particular, do not to bear its brunt.