Pakistan offers cooperation to Iran over probe into attack

Updated February 18, 2019

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Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi made the offer during a telephone call to Iranian counterpart. — File photo
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi made the offer during a telephone call to Iranian counterpart. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Sunday offered Iran cooperation in investigations into the deadly bombing of an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) bus.

The offer was made during a telephonic conversation between Foreign Minister Qureshi and his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif. A Pakistani delegation would now travel to Tehran to discuss Iranian concerns.

This was the first high-level contact between Pakistan and Iran since the attack on the troops’ bus on Wednesday, which left 27 guards dead and another 13 injured.

The attack occurred when the troops were moving between the cities of Zahedan and Khash. The attack was claimed by Jaish al-Adl, a terrorist group.

Iranian media reported that Mr Qureshi condemned the attack, offered Pakistan government’s sympathies and expressed Islamabad’s readiness for cooperation against the militants who have been targeting Iranian troops in the region bordering the two countries.

Tehran summons Pakistani ambassador, lodges protest

The area has in the past witnessed several incidents and Pakistan had last year in October helped Iran recover some of the guards abducted by Jaish al-Adl.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office issued no statement on the conversation.

The Iranian foreign ministry, meanwhile, said Mr Qureshi “strongly condemn(ed) and offer(ed) condolences over the recent terrorist attack in south-eastern Iran”.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had blamed the attack on “the spying agencies of some regional and trans-regional countries”. However, IRGC accused Pakistan of turning a blind eye to the group. IRGC Commander Maj Gen Mohammad Ali Jafari alleged that the group had sanctuaries on Pakistani soil. He said Iran would retaliate against the terrorist group if Pakistan did not act.

Tempers have been running high in Tehran after the latest attack on its troops and India has tried to cash in on Iranian grievances. Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Saturday made a brief stopover in Tehran while travelling to Bulgaria.

During her meeting there she discussed the attack on IRGC bus and the one on paramilitary forces in Pulwama in India-held Kashmir.

“Iran and India suffered from two heinous terrorist attacks in the past few days [that] resulted in big casualties. Today in my meeting with Sushma Swaraj, the Indian FM, when she had a stopover in Tehran, we agreed on close cooperation to combat terrorism in the region. Enough is enough!” tweeted Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Aragchchi after the meeting.

The matter was also discussed during a meeting of Iran’s parliamentary body on National Security and Foreign Policy. Iranian official newswire IRNA quoted the spokesman for the parliamentary commission Ali Najafi Khoshravi as having said: “One of the issues that was raised in the National Security Commission today was that terrorist groups use the Pakistani territory to take actions against Iran.”

He, however, noted that Tehran understood Islamabad’s problems in controlling its border with Iran.

Pakistan’s ambassador to Iran, Riffat Masood, was summoned to Iran’s foreign ministry to receive Tehran’s protest over the attack.

Iranian Ambassador to Pakistan Mehdi Honardoost, meanwhile, met representatives of Pakistan Army in Rawalpindi.

Published in Dawn, February 18th, 2019