Pakistan to deploy more troops on Iran border

Updated 04 May 2017


PM Nawaz shakes hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif at PM House.—PPI
PM Nawaz shakes hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif at PM House.—PPI

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Wednesday assured Iran it would take steps to prevent cross-border terrorist attacks, including the deployment of additional troops along its border with Iran.

The assurances were extended during meetings Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif held in the federal capital during a daylong trip.

Mr Zarif was leading a 12-member delegation on a previously unscheduled trip to press Pakistani authorities for action against terrorists involved in last week’s attack on Iranian border guards, which left 11 dead, seeking measures to prevent a repeat of such incidents.

Cross-border attacks have long been a serious irritant in the already fraught ties between the two neighbours.

But the Iranian leadership took an unprecedented and aggressive stance on the latest incident, which was claimed by Jaish-ul-Adl, saying shortly after the attack that “the Pakistani government bears the ultimate responsibility for the attack”.

Before sending Mr Zarif to Islamabad, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had written to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, demanding action against the terrorists involved in the attack.

Iranian foreign minister meets senior civil, military officials; seeks assurances over curbing cross-border terrorism

The Iranian foreign minister began his visit by meeting Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and later met Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, National Security Adviser Lt Gen Nasser Janjua, National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq and Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, in that order.

He was accompanied by Deputy Chief of the Iranian Armed Forces Brig Gen Gholam Reza Mehrabi and Iranian Border Guards Commander Brig Gen Qassem Rezaee, who separately held detailed talks at the General Headquarters.

“Both sides agreed on improving bilateral border coordination to deny any space to the terrorists,” ISPR said in a statement issued after Mr Zarif’s meeting with Gen Bajwa.

The army chief reassured the foreign minister that Pakistan wanted “lasting relations with Iran” and would work towards reducing the causes of friction between the two countries.

A senior official, speaking to Dawn on condition of anonymity, said: “Over the next few weeks, the Pakistan Army will increase its troop deployment near the border with Iran in a bid to enhance border security to prevent terrorist attacks.”

A similar sense of the situation arising out of the latest terrorist attack by Pakistani side and the mutual desire for cooperation was evident at Mr Zarif’s meeting with Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar.

The minister, speaking to the media after their meeting, said: “We have too many bonds. Yes, there are also a few irritants. We have decided to work on a fast-track basis to remove those irritants and send a message to the world that here are two countries with one soul.”

In their meeting, the two men agreed on “better coordination, greater intelligence sharing and frequent interactions at political, military, security and at the level of various ministries”.

For this purpose, there was an agreement on reviving the hotline between local commanders of border forces to immediately resolve issues that may come up from time to time.

The two sides would also set up ‘Operational Committees’ for implementation of the agreement on cooperation for border management; information and intelligence sharing; and curbing illegal human and drug trafficking.

National Security Adviser retired Lt Gen Nasser Janjua in his meeting with Mr Zarif, said: “Pakistan can neither approve nor support any group which works against Iran.”

The NSA’s office said in a press statement: “Both sides agreed to improve the focus on resolving the issues through border mechanism and enhanced engagements between civil and military leadership in a cooperative framework”.

Mr Zarif also paid courtesy calls on Prime Minister Sharif and National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq. Both Mr Sharif and Mr Sadiq extended their condolences over the deaths of border guards in the terrorist attack.

Published in Dawn, May 4th, 2017