Author: Vasil Ghlonti



Terrorist organizations have recently become active in the Iran-Pakistan border zone and its surrounding areas. This has led to a significant deterioration of the situation on both sides of the border, resulting in human casualties. Indeed, the tension reached such a point that the Iranian and Pakistani governments protested and temporarily withdrew their respective ambassadors from the other’s territory.

The purpose of this article is to determine and analyze the preconditions that led to these events. We will explore the reasons behind the activation of terrorist organizations in both Iran and Pakistan, and identify the threats that their recent activities pose to these countries, the region, and the world as a whole.

Terrorist activity on the Iran-Pakistan border

From the outset, our attention is drawn to the persistent challenge of terrorist organizations operating along the border of Iran and Pakistan, despite historically positive relations between the two nations. The presence of anti-Iran terrorist groups like “Jaish-ul-Adli” and “Ansar al-Furqani” in Pakistan’s Balochistan (Baluchistan) region, alongside the Balochistan Liberation Army and the Balochistan Liberation Front, which oppose the Pakistani government from Iran’s Sistan and Balochistan region, exacerbates the already precarious political and criminogenic situation in the impoverished region. The political objective of these organizations, comprising Sunni separatist Balochs, is the establishment of a political entity in Balochistan, which provokes significant displeasure from both Iran and Pakistan.

Balochistan, home to ethnic Balochs, is divided among Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan, prompting representatives of this community to pursue their objectives through both legal and illegal means. This intensifies political tensions in the region and exacerbates overall security concerns. The Baloch issue bears resemblance to the Kurdish struggle, albeit with distinct local dynamics. Notably, Pakistan is home to seven million Baloch, two million Iranians, and 500,000 Afghans.Top of Form

Undoubtedly, the presence of one of the world’s largest drug trafficking routes within Balochistan’s territory further complicates the already challenging situation. According to the available information, of the nine routes originating from Afghanistan and traversing Pakistan and Iran towards Europe and Asia, six pass through Pakistan’s Balochistan. For the inhabitants of such an impoverished region as Balochistan, the drug trade has become virtually the sole source of income. This likely explains the active involvement of the aforementioned terrorist organizations in the drug trade. Moreover, they possess the requisite military-style organization, infrastructure, and connections for such operations.

In our assessment, the financial and consequent military-terrorist capabilities of these groups are bolstered by the proceeds from drug transportation and sales, which present significant risk factors. Furthermore, their ties to the global terrorist network exert influence on international security dynamics, thus affecting the world’s security situation as a whole.

Against this backdrop, the attack by Baloch militants of Jaish-ul-Adli on December 15, 2023, on the police building in the city of Rusk, in the Iranian province of Sistan-Balochistan, resulting in the deaths of 12 Iranian policemen, likely aimed to further destabilize the situation. In response, on January 16 2024, the military and air forces of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps launched a missile and drone attack on two terrorist bases located in the mountains of Zargkhuni (Kohe Sabz) in the southeastern province of Balochistan, which belonged to the terrorist organization “Jaysh ul-Adls” (Jaysh ul-Zolmi).

The Pakistani government’s response, which included recalling its ambassador to Iran, closing the border with Iran, and declaring the bombing of Pakistani territory a violation of international law, indicates the country’s outstanding ability to protect its own territory.

Shortly  after this event, on January 17, in the territory of Sistan and Balochistan, the southeastern province of Iran bordering Pakistan, on the road connecting the cities of Shah and Zahedan, Colonel Hossein-Ali Javadanfar of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was killed in a terrorist attack carried out by the terrorist organization Jaish-ul-Adli. His death undoubtedly intensified the general tension in the region.

At the same time, on January 18, the bombing of Iran’s Sistan and Sarawan region in Balochistan province by the Pakistan Air Force, resulting in casualties among the local population, demonstrated that the Pakistani authorities will employ any means in the fight against terrorism. In response, the Iranian authorities demanded immediate explanations from Pakistan regarding the incident. Pakistan’s President Arif Alvi stated that the military action aimed to protect the country’s national interests and ensure security. The discussion centred on the terrorist bases of the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF) based in Iran.

An intriguing detail to note is the alleged involvement of the KGB, the special service of the USSR, as the purported founder of the “Balochistan Liberation Army,” which it allegedly utilized against the US-funded mujahideen during the Afghan conflict. According to reliable sources, this organization was purportedly established on the foundation of the “Baloch Students’ Union” (BSO), which was actively influenced by the special services of the USSR. During that era, numerous Baloch students reportedly attended educational institutions in the Soviet Union, where they were allegedly groomed by the Kremlin and Lubyanka as agents of influence.

It cannot be ruled out that the Russian special services have maintained their connections to this day, as they often employ the practice of keeping their networks and reactivating them if deemed necessary.

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According to the available information, Baloch separatists were allegedly supported by India, from where a significant portion of weapons reportedly originated, despite official denials from Delhi. Based on our assessment, India’s involvement in these activities cannot be ruled out, as it would align with Delhi’s strategic interests to create additional challenges for its rival, Pakistan, in the form of a terrorist threat on its western borders.

The fact that amidst tensions between Iran and Pakistan, Pakistani authorities placed their armed forces on full military alert, but soon after the foreign ministries of both countries declared the conflict virtually over and returned ambassadors to their posts on January 26, raised some questions. In reality, it emerged that authorities from both Iran and Pakistan had dealt significant blows to Baloch terrorist organizations operating on both sides of the border, as a result of the bombings, and in some respects, even emerged victorious.

It is noteworthy that even after that, terrorist acts in the territories of Balochistan did not cease. On January 27, terrorists killed nine Pakistani workers employed in Iran, and on January 30, 19 individuals lost their lives, including Pakistani soldiers and terrorists during a terrorist attack carried out by fighters of the Balochistan Liberation Army in Balochistan. According to our assessment, such activation of terrorist forces is related to the parliamentary elections held on February 8, 2024. Certain destructive forces,  attempted to disrupt the electoral process by instigating destabilization in Pakistan’s largest district of Balochistan. This is corroborated by the fact that, on the eve of the elections, on February 7, members of the “Islamic Caliphate” detonated a bomb near the office of one of the parties in Balochistan, resulting in the death of 24 people. Nonetheless, the elections proceeded on February 8, and the supporters of the “Movement for Justice” leader, Imran Khan, who were permitted by the government to participate in the elections only as independent candidates, won the majority of votes. However, this outcome was still insufficient to secure a mandate to form the government. Consequently, a coalition government was formed by his political opponents Nawaz Sharif (Pakistan Muslim League) and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (Pakistan People’s Party).

Against this backdrop, the Majid Brigade, an elite unit of the terrorist organization Balochistan Liberation Army, launched another attack on Gwadar, the most important port city of Pakistan’s Balochistan, on March 20, during which eight attackers were killed. Given that Gwadar is considered a crucial part of the Pakistan-China transport and economic corridor, employing many Chinese nationals, we can assume that this action aimed to deteriorate Pakistan-China trade and economic relations. It is conceivable that Baloch separatists, advocating for political and economic independence, struggle to reconcile with China’s presence in “their territories”.

On April 4, 2024, 11 employees of the Iranian special services were killed as a result of terrorist attacks on the headquarters of the Guards Corps in the cities of Rask and Chabahar, in Iran’s Sistan and Balochistan districts. This fact leads us to believe that the trend of increasing terrorist activity in this region, which commenced at the end of last year, will persist in 2024.




According to our assessment, the activation of terrorist organizations along the Iran-Pakistan border has been driven by various factors, including:

  1. Political: It is highly likely that the aim of terrorist organizations such as the “Islamic Caliphate-Khorasan” and the “Balochistan Liberation Army” was to disrupt the parliamentary elections scheduled for February 8, 2024. Baloch separatists and terrorists targeted influential parties participating in the elections that opposed the independence of ethnic Baloch and Balochistan. Meanwhile, the Islamic Caliphate by tradition opposes the secular state model and seeks to establish an Islamic state governed by Sharia law in Pakistan.
  2. Socio-economic: Terrorism has become a significant source of income for a considerable portion of the population in Balochistan within the territories of Pakistan and Iran. Alongside the drug trade, terrorism attracts young unemployed Baloch individuals, thereby exacerbating stability and security challenges in the region. The substantial funds generated from drug sales significantly bolster the financial and operational capabilities of these terrorist organizations. Furthermore, the global drug trade and arms smuggling facilitate the formation of international criminal networks and organized crime groups, which in turn undermine the global security architecture.
  3. Unresolved border issues between Iran and Pakistan: It is conceivable that the current measures, aimed at securing the extensive section of Balochistan, recognized as a hotspot for terrorism and a primary route for arms smuggling and drug trafficking, spanning over 900 km along the Iran-Pakistan border, may be inadequate. There is a pressing need for greater involvement of the international community and institutions, beyond the current levels observed, alongside the efforts of local authorities.

Especially in Pakistan, and to some extent in Iran, the border infrastructure lacks modern arrangements and technical equipment, likely due to financial constraints. Our estimation suggests that both Iran and Pakistan will need to allocate a significant portion of their national budgets to modernize, equip and maintain the border infrastructure, spanning over 900 km. This is particularly challenging given the harsh climatic conditions of deserts and mountain ranges in the region. It is noteworthy that the local residents, who are accustomed to such living conditions from a young age, comprise separatists, smugglers, and terrorists operating in the area. These individuals possess an intimate knowledge of the terrain, making it exceedingly challenging for recently deployed border guards to effectively counter their activities. Such border guards often require extensive time to acclimate and familiarize themselves with the region, further complicating efforts to confront these threats.