Iranian Consul General Hassan Nourian in Karachi claimed on Friday that the United States was stoking unrest gripping the country following the custodial death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.
Nourian made the comments while speaking to journalists in the metropolis. Parroting the line adopted by functionaries of the Islamic Republic, Nourian claimed the United States was using Amini’s death to fuel protests in a bid to bring about regime change in Iran. Having the country recognise Israel was another objective, according to Dawn.
Over the presser, the Iranian consul general also dwelled extensively on sturdy Iran-Pakistan ties. He cited high-level bilateral visits and the Iran-Pakistan Pipeline as testament. Diplomatic niceties aside, it is common knowledge that the IPP project has been firmly placed on the backburner given the crippling weight of international pressure and the sanctions regime.
Unrelenting unrest in Iran may very well sound the death knell for the Ayatollahs in Tehran. While the theocratic regime has acquired mastery in crushing revolts by resorting to brute force, no power can sustain the combined wrath of over 80 million people beleaguered by economic and social woes.
Many, moreover, will not fall for the Iranian regime invoking ‘strong ties’ with Pakistan. Bilateral relations between the two states have been anything but warm since Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s 1979 departure. Exporting the Iranian revolution was one of the foremost aims of Iran’s Ayatollahs. The deceased Shah, it must be said, ran an enviable foreign policy wherein great significance was attached to all-weather ties with Pakistan. How the much-maligned man never played the sectarian card is also noteworthy.
Iran’s Ayatollahs, on the other hand, presided over a Pakistan policy diametrically opposite to that of the Shah’s. Within Pakistan, some have accused the Iranian regime of radicalising Pakistan’s Shia population. The project has not tasted much success given how the nation’s Shia, challenges aside, are to a great extent a well-integrated and influential demographic.
The Iranian regime reportedly lured scores of Pakistanis to fight in the Syrian Civil War with offers of cash and employment. In a far cry from how the then ruling Pahlavis assisted Pakistan in putting down an insurgency in Balochistan, the Ayatollahs were explicitly warned against harbouring anti-Pakistan militants by COAS Qamar Javed Bajwa in 2020.
As protests grip Iran, Pakistan must brace for the not-so-distant prospect of political instability in its neighbourhood. Should it be party to regime change in Iran? The Pakistani state will have to weigh the merits and demerits. An Iran free of the Ayatollahs will take the country back into the Western fold. The desire to normalise ties with India, if it comes to fruition, will prove a spirited complement. An Iran sans the Ayatollahs, finally, will excise the last stumbling block impeding the creation of a pro-West block of Muslim states stretching from Pakistan in the East to Jordan in the Levant.
Conversely, interfering in a sovereign country’s internal matters is against Pakistan’s long-held official position and violates international law. At the very least, Pakistani civil society and political parties must stand with Iranian women in their heroic movement for democracy and equal rights.
*Saad Saud is audience engagement editor at The Friday Times — Naya Daur (TFT-ND)