Iranian guards not being held in Pakistan: FO

Published March 27, 2014
Foreign Office spokesperson Tasneem Aslam. — File photo
Foreign Office spokesperson Tasneem Aslam. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has condemned the killing of one of the five abducted Iranian guards and reiterated its position that they were not being held on its soil.

“Our investigations have neither corroborated nor established the entry into or presence within Pakistani territory of the Iranian border guards,” Foreign Office spokesperson Tasneem Aslam said in a statement on Wednesday.

Her comments followed remarks by Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Marzieh Afkham that her government considered Pakistani government responsible for the safety of the kidnapped guards.

Five Iranian border guards were kidnapped on February 6 from Pak-Iran border by an Iranian militant group Jaish al-Adl which is accused of having sanctuaries in Pakistan’s Balochistan province.

The group has now claimed to have killed one of the guards identified as Jamshid Danaeefar.Iran sharply reacted to reports of the killing of the guard and accused Pakistan of failing to take serious measures for ensuring the safety of the guards. The Iranian foreign ministry called for immediate capture of the terrorists and their extradition to Iran.

“Unfortunately, terrorist groups have utilised Pakistani soil in the past few months to carry out terrorist acts against Iranian citizens and Iran’s national interests,” Ms Afkham said.

Responding to the Iranian comments, the Pakistani FO spokesperson offered condolences.

“Pakistan is deeply saddened over the reported killing of one of the five Iranian border guards, abducted in the Sistan-Baluchestan province of Iran last month. We condemn this terrorist act, and share the grief and agony of the families of the martyr and the other border guards,” she said.

Ms Aslam renewed Pakistan’s offer of taking action on “any credible and actionable intelligence made available to it”.

She recalled that following the last meeting of the Joint Pak-Iran Border Commission in Quetta on February 19-20, a border coordination committee was set up to assist with the recovery efforts.

A BBC-Farsi report earlier quoted Ms Aslam as having said that despite the constitution of the coordination committee Iranian officials never contacted them (in that regard).

She, however, later told Dawn that “there was a joint visit to the site 10km inside Iranian territory from where, they say, their guards were kidnapped. I’m not aware how the committee was coordinating subsequently. Hence, I cannot and did not comment on whether Iranians were attending the meetings or not”.

PAK ENVOY SUMMONED: Meanwhile, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif expressed “grave concern” about the fate of the soldier, reports AFP.

“We did all we could to secure their release,” Mr Zarif told state television after a cabinet meeting.

“But it is disappointing that the Pakistani government has failed to secure its borders, and allows terrorists to operate on its soil.”

Mr Zarif’s remarks came after his ministry summoned Pakistani Ambassador Nour Mohammad Jadmani, demanding “swift and serious action” to secure the release of the soldiers, the official IRNA news agency reported.

Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli warned – without elaborating – that Iran “reserves the right to utilise all its ability in its border areas”.

Jaish al-Adl said on its website on Sunday that Jamshid Danaeefar had been killed, warning of further executions should Tehran refuse to “release Sunni prisoners”.Iran’s interior ministry says it is awaiting Islamabad’s official position amid media reports that local Pakistani authorities have confirmed the group’s claim.

The rebel group, which took up arms in 2012 to fight for what it says are the rights of Iran’s minority Sunni population, is active in the restive Sistan-Baluchestan province.

In November it claimed responsibility for killing a local prosecutor, a month after its rebels killed 14 Iranian border guards in an ambush.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned in a Tuesday statement the reported killing as an “appalling act” and urged that the perpetrators are brought to justice.

A spokesman for the US State Department, Alan Eyre, called for the “swift release” of the abducted soldiers while expressing hope the reported execution was not true.

Shortly after the abduction, Iranians launched a campaign on Twitter, despite the micro-blogging service being banned in Iran.

Some Iranians have used social media to hit out at the Tehran government for its inability to bring home the young soldiers, who were serving their 24-month mandatory military service.Border guards chief Hossein Zolfaghari has admitted that there was “negligence” in the lead-up to the kidnapping, saying those responsible were suspended, with some facing prosecution.

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