COMMENTARY
 
Violence May Sour Pakistan-Iran Ties
The Nation
February 21, 1997
The killing of Iranian Consul and Director of Khana-e-Farhang in Multan Syed Muhammad Ali Rahimi and six other staff members has added another bad chapter to the already strained relations between Pakistan and Iran. “We express our shock and grief over what happened in Multan, and condemn violence and terrorism,” said the Foreign Office spokesman.

The unabated Shiite-Sunni sectarian violence in Pakistan may not let the two countries sort out their differences, no matter what steps they take at the official level. President Rafsanjani recently agreed to attend the upcoming extraordinary OIC summit in Islamabad. His earlier reluctance to participate in the summit might have been because it was being held ahead of the regular OIC summit in Tehran in December 1997.

Multan’s was the third act of terrorism against the Iranian diplomatic and cultural missions and their staff members in the country in the 1990s. In June 1991 Consul of Iranian Culture Centre, Lahore, Sadiq Ganji was killed. The Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), the extremist Sunni group, was blamed for murder of Mr. Ganji. Riaz Basra, an activist of SSP was identified as the “killer”, but he was reported to have fled to Afghanistan.

In January 1997, SSP activists set ablaze the Iranian Cultural Centre in Lahore, in reaction to killing of SSP Chief Ziaur Rehman Farooqi in the city’s Sessions Court bomb explosion. Just two days before the Lahore bomb blast, Iran had officially asked caretaker Foreign Minister Sahibzada Yaqub Khan, who was then visiting Tehran, that his government must take some steps to protect the Shiite minority in Pakistan.

It was during the Benazir Bhutto regime that the state of relations between Tehran and Islamabad moved from bad to worse. Although the differences were never made public, the Foreign Office did receive reports from its officials posted in Tehran that they were being harassed by Iranian authorities. According to Foreign Office insiders, the wife of Pakistan’s Naval Attaché in Tehran was fired upon and she received a bullet injury in her leg.

In the last five years, there is hardly anything over which both Pakistan and Iran do not compete with each other.