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Experts, intellectuals react to Pakistan’s retaliatory attack on Iran, express caution with hope for de-escalation

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Hours after Pakistan’s counter-strike on Thursday in Iran’s Siestan-o-Balochistan province that killed nine persons, former diplomats, intellectuals and international relations experts have weighed in over what is seen as a retaliation to Tehran violating its airspace and also expressed caution. Pakistan conducted “precision military strikes” against what it called “terrorist hideouts” in Iran’s Siestan-Balochistan province that killed 9 people in the wee hours on Thursday. The attack was seen as retaliation to Iranian missile and drone attacks on Tuesday which targeted two bases of the Sunni Baloch militant group ‘Jaish al-Adl’ in Pakistan’s unruly Balochistan province.

Former foreign secretary of Pakistan Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry said Islamabad acted “responsibly” and “has proved with this response that we don’t want to do it but we can do it,” Geo News reported. A “friendly” country does not attack their friends but long-term thinking is required, Chaudhry said and urged the highest authorities in Pakistan and Iran to “talk” and “settle this through bilateral communications and China’s help.”

“Iran’s government has good relations with Pakistan so we should talk to them. [Pakistan’s] border situation is not okay with India and Afghanistan so I don’t think they [Pakistan] would want to open up [a conflict on] another border,” the former diplomat stated.

Pakistan’s former high commissioner to India Abdul Basit highlighted the need to find a diplomatic solution, and said Pakistan cannot include Iran in the same “category” as India.

“We have partnered with them (Iran) a lot over our past. Pakistan and Iran have collaborated many times before. We should move towards de-escalation,” he was quoted as saying by the Dawn.com.

In a post on X soon after the Pakistan Army came out with a statement related to the attack, former human rights minister Shireen Mazari described Pakistan’s response as “swift and proportionate”. She applauded how the “full spectrum deterrence reasserted militarily – meeting the threat at a level of our choosing & prevailing,” but rued: “One of the many disturbing questions arising is why both supposedly friendly ‘brotherly’ Muslim countries, with deep historical & social ties, allowed space creation for these militant groups in each other’s territories?” “Need for serious introspection by both states,” Mazari added.

Political analyst Mosharraf Zaidi warned of a “very dangerous and unpredictable situation”.

“For years, Iran has actively curated terrorists that target Pakistan – worst of all, Iran works with India to undermine Pakistani security. On the surface, Pakistan’s targeting of these groups is perfectly defensible,” Zaidi posted on X.

Pointing out that Pakistan’s stakes require the absence of war, he stated: “It is no accident that Pakistan’s negative economic trajectory is aligned chronologically with the regional instability it endures.” Michael Kugelman, a scholar of South Asian affairs at the Wilson Center in Washington, called for a third-party mediation.

“Pakistan’s retaliation appears to have been proportionate to Iran’s earlier strike, and notably it targeted only militants and not Iranian security forces. With both sides even, so to speak, this provides an opening for de-escalation, if cooler heads prevail. But that’s a big if,” he posted on X.

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader and senator Sherry Rehman told Geo News that the people on both sides should “not fan the flames” and “this should stop here.”

Noting that such border exchanges (between Pakistan and Iran) have been going on for a long time since 2013 and that there were treaties on it as well, she said the strike by Iran was “unpredictable” and Pakistan would have thought about the matter “a lot” before retaliating.

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