Pakistan ‘Upset’ With Iran Over Sending COVID-19 Infected Patients Into Balochistan

Despite Pakistan’s request to wait until arrangements were made for COVID-19 facilities, Iran forcefully moved 5000 Pakistan nationals into Balochistan upsetting Islamabad, reports the Arab News.

The move by Tehran has increased tensions between Iran and Pakistan, the two neighbouring countries as Islamabad accuses Iran of accelerating the spread of the coronavirus.

Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, speaking at National Assembly Session, the first in 2 months, said that Pakistan had no option but to accept it’s nationals back in the country. “I spoke with the Iranian foreign minister and requested time to make arrangements (for the pilgrims) but they couldn’t do it due to economic sanctions,” he said.

Islamabad holds Iran responsible for the spike in COVID-19 cases in Pakistan, according to Arab News. Pakistan has blamed Iranian authorities for accelerating the spread of the virus by sending Pakistani pilgrims home without screening them for COVID-19.

Iran, a popular destination for Shitte Pakistani pilgrims, is one of the most adversely affected countries by the coronavirus.  A similar claim was made in March, as Dr Zafar Mirza, PM Imran Khan’s special assistant on public health said that 80% of Pakistan’s confirmed cases of COVID-19 originated from Iran.

Accusations such as those mentioned above could prove to be detrimental to joint military missions as well as Iran-Pakistan friendship. The countries share a 900 km long border and tackle border security issues together.

As earlier reported by EurAsian Times, Pakistan Army asked Iran for assistance to tackle militancy in the volatile Balochistan region.

Gen Bajwa, COAS-Pakistan asked for the assistance after six Pakistani soldiers were killed in a blast by the Baloch Republican Army (BRA). Tehran is of vital importance to Islamabad since Pakistan believes that BRA has set up bases across the border in Iran.

At the National Assembly session, Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, criticised Imran Khan for lacking a strategy to limit the spread of the virus. Others such as Pakistani Muslim League (N) politician Khawaja Muhammad Asif blasted the government for its poor testing capacity and ‘confused policy’ on the lockdown.

Balochistan has become a massive source of insurgency in Pakistan. Over the past few years, innumerable people including Pakistan soldiers have been killed in terror attacks in the volatile province and the Baloch Liberation Army (BPA) has emerged as a dangerous opponent to the Pakistan Army.