Over 700 Armenians and an unknown number of Azerbaijani people have been killed since September 27 when the worst fight in decades broke out between the Christian-dominated Armenia and the Shia Muslim-dominated Azerbaijan.
The Russia-brokered ceasefire has failed twice in the last three weeks. Sources told IANS that the truce is unable to sustain because of the support extended to Azerbaijan's despotic ruler Ilham Aliyev by Turkey and Pakistan.
Amid the disintegration of the USSR, Armenians who inhabited Nagorno-Karabakh in a war took control of the region and seven surrounding districts of Azerbaijan. Though Russia managed to bring both sides to a truce in 1994, the dispute has remained unresolved.
Last week, Turkey's Anadolu agency reported that Pakistan's armed forces chief General Nadeem Raza has extended his full support to Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan's Ambassador to Pakistan, Ali Alizada, met him at the joint staff headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.
But this support is not merely diplomatic. Sources said Pakistan, the lone country that does not recognise Armenia as a state, has been sending armed Islamist terrorists to back Azerbaijan's military attacks on Armenians.
Last week, Armenia's Deputy Foreign Minister Avet Adonts told an Indian news channel that Yerevan "can't exclude" the possibility of Pakistan sending Islamist jihadis to back Azerbaijan's army.
"They used to act in the same way at the beginning of '90s during the large scale war in Nagorno-Karabakh. With ceasefire agreement in 1994, these guys were there, of Pakistani origin. It would not be a surprise for us if they will be present this time as well. Many media houses are reporting that Pakistani fighters have left Pakistan, and again via Turkey, they have reached Azerbaijan to join the mercenaries operating in Azerbaijan," Adonts said.
Armenia's political and defence analyst William Bairamian, who is also the editor of The Armenite, told IANS over phone that there is "abundant evidence" that Azerbaijan is using "jihadist mercenaries" transported by Turkey from the areas it controls in Syria to fight against Armenians in Artsakh.
Sources told IANS that Pakistani fighters are contributing to the war that Azerbaijan has outsourced to jihadi terrorists.
Bairamian argued that despite having a massive military, Azerbaijan is using mercenaries because President Ilham Aliyev, the authoritarian ruler, is already facing growing public resentment over corruption, aggressive crackdown on the opposition and media, a mismanaged economy and mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic. Any loss to Azerbaijan's military will add to the public sentiment against Aliyev.
"Also, most citizens of Azerbaijan have little heart for a long war, especially for a place (Nagorno-Karabakh) they have never been to and know little about," Bairamian said, pointing out that during the Artsakh Liberation War from 1988 to 1994, many Azerbaijanis were known to flee from the battlefield, requiring the leadership to recruit people by threat of force. Many of the fighters on the Azerbaijani side were from among the country's minority groups - Lezgins, Talysh and Meskheti Turks - along with Soviet Ukrainian soldiers.
In the first war, Chechen rebels and Afghan mujaheddins, fresh off their victory over Soviet forces, were paid to come and fight, Bairamian recalled.
Azerbaijan, he said, is a tightly-controlled dictatorship and massive casualties of its military forces will fuel internal unrest. "That is why Azerbaijan has not revealed its casualty figures and has claimed that only 36 of its soldiers died," Bairamian said.
When jihadi mercenaries die in the war, they aren't sent back to Azerbaijani towns. "They are merely the cannon fodder. Naturally, this lowers the number of dead soldiers being returned to families in Azerbaijan," he argued.
Incidentally, Pakistan and Turkey have a huge dispensable force of jihadi terrorists fighting in several conflict zones. Turkey has occupied northern Syria since 2016 and has been training defectors of the Syrian Army against Bashir al-Assad.
Turkey is allegedly colluding with ISIS against Syrian and Turkish Kurds, who have for long seeking a separate state. Similarly, thousands of Pakistanis are recruited by Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Hizbul Mujahideen, al Qaeda and ISIS for fighting against India in Kashmir and Afghanistan.
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