The silence on Uzair Baloch's Iran connection
Uzair Baloch, who was tried by a military court three years ago for spying on his country’s army and providing information to Iranian intelligence officials on sensitive installations in Pakistan, made headlines again after the provincial administration of Sindh released a detailed investigation report focusing on his case earlier this month.
As the story goes, Baloch, a notorious gang leader, fled to Iran’s Chabahar port city in 2013 after authorities in Pakistan’s commercial hub, Karachi, launched a major operation against terrorists and other criminal elements. Prior to that, Baloch was in close contact with prominent politicians and powerful officials, making one wonder if there is more at stake here than just the espionage issue.
It is pertinent to mention that Baloch’s spy activities were first mentioned a few years ago when it was said that he had links with Kulbhushan Jadhav, an Indian national who was arrested in Pakistan’s Balochistan province on charges of terrorism and spying for India’s intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing.
Interestingly, Jadhav was also believed to have entered Balochistan via Iran. Soon after his capture and full confession, Pakistan wrote a letter to the Iranian government, asking officials in Tehran to hand over his main accomplice, Rakesh alias Rizwan, after interrogating him for his anti-Pakistan activities in Iran.
No one heard of Rakesh after that.
Pakistan’s political parties should rise above their interests and make an example of Uzair Baloch. As for the state itself, it should take up the issue with the Iranian administration and ask why its intelligence officials were involved in spying on Pakistan.
Silence in Pakistan and Iran over Baloch’s spying activities is confusing for quite a few. While it is important to bring details of his criminal past to light, it is equally imperative not to brush the espionage issue under the carpet. If the investigation report against Karachi’s leading mobster is anything to go by, he got requisite support from some key political figures who were not reluctant to extend their patronage to him. The question is: Did they know that he was spying against Pakistan?
In an interview to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in June 2015, a senior Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) official “confessed” to having received funding from the Indian government. MQM denied these claims and said authorities in Pakistan were running a campaign against the party.
Zulfikar Mirza, who was previously a senior member of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and now an ally of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, is said to have had strong ties to Baloch. According to the investigation report, the PTI has done its best to clear his image while pointing out that he had left the PPP in 2011 and did not maintain links to the gang leader. As we have already noted, however, Baloch acquired the Iranian passport in 2006. Was Mirza aware of Baloch’s activities before he left the PPP?
Pakistan’s political parties should rise about their interests and make an example of Uzair Baloch. As for the state itself, it should take up the issue with the Iranian administration and ask why its intelligence officials were involved in spying on Pakistan. If these agencies deny links to these developments or any of these individuals, Islamabad should demand Tehran not to allow any other country to use its soil against Pakistan.
- Naila Mahsud is a Pakistani political and International relations researcher, with a focus on regional politics and security issues. Twitter: @MahsudNaila