July 05, 2010
Pakistan-Iran Foreign Relations
Reaction to June 2009 Iranian Presidential Election:
In June 2009, the Pakistani government officially congratulated Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his re-election. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari stated that the electoral victory was a "an acknowledgment of [Ahmadinejad's] outstanding services." Allama Sajid Naqvi, the head of Tehrik-e-Islami, said that the results of the election demonstrate that Ahmadinejad enjoys the trust and support of the Iranian people and expressed hope that Iran and Pakistan will enjoy an increasingly strong bond in the future.  Tehri-e-Islami is a Shia political party in Pakistan that the former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf twice banned for ties to terrorism.
Pakistan has publicly defended Iran’s right to nuclear technology.  Some American analysts also suspect Pakistani scientists employed by the Pakistani military of helping Iran acquire nuclear technology, although Pakistan officially denies any involvement. Henry Sokolski, former deputy for nonproliferation policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, explained in 2003 that “the notion that Pakistan wasn’t involved is getting less and less tenable.” Since then, inspectors have found in Iran’s possession documents from Pakistani scientist Dr. A.Q. Khan detailing how to shape uranium for nuclear warheads, while in 2004 then-Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf officially pardoned Dr. Khan for his sale of nuclear technology. According to a report by the Congressional Research Service published in 2005, Dr. Khan “could not have functioned without some level of cooperation by Pakistani military personnel, who maintained tight security around the key nuclear facilities, and possibly civilian officials as well.” On March 15, 2010, Pakistan rejected a US media report asserting that Khan provided nuclear related information and material, including drawings, centrifuge components, and a list of suppliers, to Iran. Abdul Basit, a spokesman for the Pakistani Foreign Office, described the claims, published by the Washington Post, as "yet another repackaging of fiction, which surface occasionally for purposes that are self-evident."
Over the past several years, Pakistan has increasingly called for peaceful reconciliation on the international nuclear standoff, despite increasing concern from the UN and Washington.
In a February 2010 meeting with her Iranian counterpart, Pakistani National Assembly Speaker Fahmida Mirza said that “Pakistan is against any kinds of sanctions against Iran and believes that Iran's nuclear disputes should be resolved peacefully and through dialogue." In a separate meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mirza reiterated her earlier remarks and assured him that Pakistan supports Iran's independence and progress in all the areas, especially in utilizing peaceful nuclear energy. She also highlighted Iranian-Pakistani commonalities in religion, history, and culture, and added that extremism and terrorism is a common threat to the stability and progress of the entire region.
The two countries initiated significant cooperation in the energy sector in 1991, when Iran began negotiating an oil deal with Pakistan and Qatar. This initial collaboration, however, was limited and did not progress meaningfully. Iran again attempted negotiating with Qatar regarding the construction of gas pipelines to Pakistan in 1995, however was unsuccessful.  Cooperation regarding energy has nonetheless increased since the 1990s and helped provide the foundation for a more thorough bilateral trade network between Iran and Pakistan in recent years. By 2005, Pakistan was actively seeking Iranian investment in bilateral trade and energy cooperation. Pakistan and Iran have deepened their economic partnership to such an extent that, in a joint statement issued in May 2010, the two countries expressed satisfaction with an increase in bilateral trade, which surpassed $1.2 billion in the previous financial year. In 2009, Pakistan increased its non-oil exports to Iran by 80 percent, reaching $279 million. Similarly, Iranian non-oil exports to Pakistan increased by 11 percent, totaling $278 million for the year. Despite this growth, Karachi Chambeer of Commerce and Industry President Abdul Majid Haji Mohammad said the lack of a banking system remains a major obstacle to Iran-Pakistan trade.
Since 2005, Islamabad has increasingly turned to Tehran to supply Pakistan’s growing energy needs. In August 2008, Iran agreed to finance a robust energy project that would allow Pakistan to import 1,000 megawatts of electricity to overcome its power shortage. The project, a $60 million endeavor, consists of running a 100-kilometer electric line to help augment the 40 megawatts of electricity Pakistan already receives daily from Iran. In April 2010, Iranian Ambassador to Pakistan Mashallah Shakeri spoke before the Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, stressing Iran’s commitment to economic relations with Pakistan. According to the envoy, Iran intends to supply the 1,000 megawatts to Pakistan at a discounted rate.
Iran and Pakistan have long discussed the construction of a 2,600-kilometer, $7.5 billion Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline (IPI) that would pump gas from Iran’s South Pars field to Pakistan and India.  Tentative talks on the pipeline began in 1994, however tense political relations between India and Pakistan frustrated realization of the project. International concern over Iran’s nuclear program further delayed agreement and in November 2007 Iran and Pakistan accused India of hesitating because of pressure from the United States. In February 2010, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki accused the US of interfering with the planned pipeline by attempting to sway New Delhi away from the IPI. Indeed, Washington has repeatedly urged India not to follow through with the deal while Iran faces sanctions for its nuclear enrichment program. Both Russia and China have taken significant interest in the pipeline, with Russia’s Gazprom offering to help supply oil and China holding talks with Iran and Pakistan in 2008 to replace India in case New Delhi chose to reject the partnership.
In May 2009, Iran and Pakistan signed a purchase agreement stipulating that Iran will initially transfer 30 million cubic meters of gas to Pakistan per day, with the volume eventually increasing to 60 million. The deal, to which India was not a party, ensures gas supplies to Pakistan for a period of 25 years. On June 13, 2010, the two sides formally concluded the $7.5 billion agreement over the objections of US Special Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke, who cautioned that although the “US understands that Pakistan faces [a] major energy crisis... new sanctions on Iran can impact Pakistan.” According to a previous Pakistani Petroleum Ministry statement in May 2010, “the capital cost for the Pakistan section is estimated at 1.65 billion dollars…[and] the first gas flow is targeted by end 2014” with Iran completing the project ahead of schedule.
During a July 30, 2009 interview with the Iranian Islamic Republic News Agency, Dr. Ashfaq Hassan Khan, a former economic advisor in Pakistan, insisted that while economic ties between Iran and Pakistan should expand at all levels, cooperation in the energy sector is vital for Pakistan. Khan further expressed his view that the planned Iran-Pakistan pipeline would likely greatly benefit both countries.
Iran-Pakistan cooperation on transportation issues expanded greatly in August 2009, when the two inaugurated an international freight rail line from Islamabad to Istanbul via Tehran. The line is a “pilot project” of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), a Central Asian trade bloc. Although Iran and Turkey already enjoy extensive rail cooperation, transportation ties with Pakistan are weaker. According to Director of Pakistan Railways Shafiqullah Khan, Islamabad and Tehran are seeking outside credit to resolve differences in rail gauge in order to regularize rail service between the two. Officials expect to begin regular freight service along the 6,500 km line in August 2010.
In February 2010, Punjab Chief Minister Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif called for the creation of an economic free-trade zone among Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and other Islamic countries. During a celebration of the 31st Revolution Day of Iran, Sharif noted that “deep, friendly relations exist between Pakistan and Iran and it is the need of the hour that socio-economic cooperation should be promoted.”
Iranian and Pakistani officials, in February 2010, signed the first memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the two countries on cross border trade. The MoU was penned during the two countries’ first joint committee meeting on border trade in Iran’s southeastern Sistan and Balouchestan province. Iraj Hassanpour, the head of Sistan and Balouchestan's trade organization, stated that “[b]ased on [the] MoU, [the] two countries are bound to hold public and specialized fairs at their common borders and in [the] capital of Sistan & Balouchestan province, Zahedan, and Quetta in Pakistan." Both sides also decided to establish large storehouses to facilitate the storage of trade commodities at their border customs.
Sardar Muhammad Latif Khan Khosa, a Pakistani advisor to the prime minister on information technology, has called for increased collaboration between Iran and Pakistan in telecommunications. During a June 2010 conversation with Iran’s ambassador to Pakistan, Mashallah Shakeri, Khosa expressed his belief that increased bilateral activity in the sector has the potential to increase regional economic development and security.
Iran has developed deep economic and political ties with Pakistan, an ally of the United States and a nuclear neighbor.  In 2007, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Shaukat Aziz, said that Pakistan shares extensive ties with Iran “based upon faith, belief, joint history and culture. Expansion of cooperation in the fields of trade and investment can further strengthen the bilateral ties.” Iran and Pakistan cooperate in a number of trade groups and agreed in June 2008 on a list of 300 tradable items in an effort to stimulate economic relations. Iran is active in the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO)—a trade and investment group that includes all of the central Asian countries, founded by Iran, Turkey and Pakistan. Additionally, both Iran and Pakistan also hold observer status in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)—an Asian regional economic and security group. China and Russia are reportedly considering inviting Iran and Pakistan to full membership in the SCO so as to participate in resolving the conflict in Afghanistan. "In the current global context, the top priority is finding a solution to the Afghan issue," Secretary-General Muratbek Sansyzbayevich Imanaliev said during a news conference in Beijing in February 2010.
Pakistan has helped encourage trilateral trade with Iran and Turkey in commercial goods and development of infrastructure beyond the programs administered by regional organizations such as the ECO.
Iran has involved itself in the political and military instability in Pakistan’s Afghan and Iran border regions. In June 2009, the Iranian Embassy in Pakistan donated $250,000 as humanitarian aid for Pakistan’s unstable Swat province. In a statement, the embassy said that "Iran denounces terrorist acts in Pakistan's northern areas and announces its readiness to renew support for peace and stability in Pakistan." In July 2009, Iranian Ambassador to Pakistan Mashaallah Shakeri called on the Pakistani government to secure the release of Heshmatollah Attarzadeh Niyaki, an Iranian diplomat kidnapped by gunman in Peshawar in 2008. While speaking before the Iranian parliament in July 2009, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki stated that he believed “that the current situations [in western Pakistan] are improving…criminal acts [have been] reduced and controlled in [the] last year.” Mottaki further indicated that Iran had received a good degree of cooperation from the Pakistani government in implementing new security measures on the border.
Speaking in July 2009, Former Interior Minister and Chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party Sherpao Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao praised an Iraqi security forces raid on a People's Mujahedin of Iran camp located north of Baghdad. Iranian authorities reacted warmly to news of the raid, which targeted a militant Iranian exile group hostile to the Islamic Republic. Sherpao explained his support for the raid by stating that no country should permit its territory to be used for hostile acts against another sovereign state. He further added that "Iran is our brotherly country and we always want Iran to prosper."
In August 2009, Iran took part in a meeting of the “Friends of Democratic Pakistan.” During the summit, which was held in Turkey and largely focused on the security situation in Pakistan, Foreign Minister Mottaki discussed the importance of bilateral ties with his Pakistani counterpart, Shah Mahmood Qureshi. The two also spoke about the need to combat terrorism and establish stability in Pakistan, with Mottaki adding that he considers Pakistan-Iran-Afghanistan relations to be an “appropriate model” for regional conflict resolution.
The two countries’ ‘brotherly’ relations were threatened in October 2009 following attacks against the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGС) in Sistan-Baluchistan province. President Ahmadinejad publically accused “certain officials in Pakistan” of involvement in the attacks. Tehran further demanded the extradition of Abdolmalek Rigi, the chief of suspected terrorist group Jundallah. Pakistani officials denied any involvement in the attacks, rejecting Iranian Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar’s accusation that Jundallah received financial aid from Pakistan. Pakistan subsequently released 11 Iranian security officers accused of illegally crossing the border. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari met with Najjar in Islamabad a week after the attacks. Zardari stated that the attackers “were the enemies of both countries” and vowed to cooperate with Iran in their capture. At the beginning of November 2009, however, the IRGC accused Pakistan of releasing the leader of Jundallah immediately before the October 18 bombing in Sistan-Baluchistan, thereby implicating the Pakistani government in the attacks. According to the deputy head of the IRGC, Brigadier General Hossein Salami, the Jundallah leader, Abdolmakel Rigi, “was arrested on September 26 in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province. But he was released after an hour with the intervention of the Pakistani intelligence service.” In March 2010, upon receiving assurances from Islamabad that authorities would take measures to improve security in the area, Iran reopened its border with Pakistan. Iran had closed the border to trade four months prior in response to the October IRGC attack.
Deputy Foreign Minister of Iran Hassan Qashqavi said in January 2010 that the Pakistani government should take serious measures to stem terrorist activities across the border of the two countries. According to the minister, "the Pakistani government is expected to live up to its promises and take more serious measures to stem the terrorist and evil activities.” The same month, an Iranian Foreign Ministry official claimed there is a hidden agenda behind the recent destabilizing measures on Iran's eastern borders with Pakistan and Afghanistan. 
On January 16, 2010, officials from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran met to discuss regional security and terrorism, agreeing on a joint framework for cooperation in tackling political volatility in the area. The three agreed that regional stability and security could only be advanced through sincere adherence to the principle of national sovereignty and territorial integrity. Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi stated that "it is important to consult amongst ourselves so that we are on the same page and we have closer positions on different issues that confront our neighborhood." A joint declaration from the meeting called for Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran to coordinate efforts to combat extremism as well as drug and weapons smuggling. The ministers also raised Iranian concerns regarding the expanded presence of US forces in Afghanistan. A day after the meeting, the Iranian ambassador to Pakistan, Mashallah Shakeri, announced that the third Iran-Afghanistan-Pakistan summit will be held in Tehran in the near future.
In January 2010, Iranian First Vice-President Mohammad Reza Rahimi insisted that Iran considers durable security and stability in Pakistan to be of paramount importance to Iranian interests. Referencing recent efforts by Tehran to establish sustainable security in Pakistan, Rahimi stated that "Iran believes that comprehensive expansion of ties with Pakistan plays a major role in materializing the interests of the two countries and the region." He called for the fortification of the Iran and Pakistan’s common borders and added that "terrorist groups should not be allowed to disturb security of the two countries' border regions."
During the first Meeting of the Heads of Interpol of the Economic Cooperation Organization, held on June 29, 2010, Interior Minister Nijjar urged the association’s members to collaborate more closely on security issues. The minister proposed the creation of a regional police headquarters and encouraged more rapid sharing of information on criminal investigations.
Ambassador Shakeri has said that Iran is determined to continue its involvement in Pakistani development despite ever-increasing security challenges. In a February 2010 message commemorating the 31st anniversary of the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the ambassador noted that "Pakistan, in its capacity as a Muslim neighbor, has a special status in the macro-strategy of the foreign policy of Iran, with durable security, stability and all-round development of Pakistan being Iran's desire."
During a six-day visit to Iran in February 2010, Pakistani National Assembly Speaker Fahmida Mirza met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, and Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki. Mirza and Larijani issued a joint statement calling for the expansion of ties between Pakistan and Iran in the political, economic, and cultural spheres. Iran and Pakistan also agreed to increase their parliamentary cooperation on global issues at international bodies. In addition, the two countries underlined the need to adopt a comprehensive political approach in the campaigns against terrorism, drug trafficking, and organized crime.
During an April 2010 appearance before the Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Iranian Ambassador Shakeri reaffirmed his country’s commitment to aiding Pakistan deal with its internal turmoil, saying that "Iran is fully aware of the problems currently facing Pakistan and our prime goal is to bring Pakistan out of the prevailing crisis.”
According to a May 2010 joint statement following a meeting between Deputy Foreign Minister of Iran Seyed Ameer Mansoor Borghei'e and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Iran and Pakistan support efforts by Afghan President Hamid Karzai to achieve national reconciliation in his country. The two countries further agreed to continue cooperate to help and achieve sustainable peace in Afghanistan.
On May 4, 2010, Pakistan's Senate Chairman Farooq Naek stressed the importance of parliamentary relations during a meeting with Iran’s acting deputy foreign minister, Amir Mansour Borqaei. The two sides spoke of the possibility of exchanging parliamentary delegations and lauded the two countries’ history of friendly relations.