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ISLAMABAD: Iran on Saturday pledged to cooperate with Pakistan in tracking and punishing the perpetrators of the Ormara massacre allegedly having sanctuaries on Iranian territory as Pakistan called for “visible action” towards eliminating them.

The assurance was conveyed to Pakistan by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in a phone conversation with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi a day before the first visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to Iran.

The Foreign Office had earlier given the Iranian side a demarche over the April 18 attack in which 14 security personnel travelling on Makran Coastal Highway were killed by terrorists. The demarche accused Tehran of not acting on the intelligence shared with it about the presence of Baloch terrorists on its soil in the past.

Tehran considers the massacre as an attack on itself, FM Zarif tells Qureshi a day before Imran’s visit

The responsibility for the Ormara attack was claimed by a conglomerate of terrorist groups ‘Baloch Raaji Aajoi Sangar’ (BRAS) comprising Baloch Liberation Front, Baloch Liberation Army, and Baloch Republican Guard. Among the 14 martyred security men, 10 were from Pakistan Navy, three from Pakistan Air Force, and one from coast guards, according to FM Qureshi, who addressed a press conference after talking to FM Zarif.

“He (FM Zarif) reassured me that Iran takes the incident as an attack on it and would fully cooperate with Pakistan,” said Mr Qureshi.

Mr Zarif had earlier tweeted: “Strongly condemning the recent terrorist attack in Pakistan, just as PM @ImranKhanPTI embarks on his first, historic visit to Iran. Terrorists, extremists & their sponsors are terrified by close relations between Muslim states. Iran stands with the people & govt. of Pakistan.”

FM Qureshi, too, believed that the “spoilers”, who were not happy with the high-level exchanges between the two neighbouring countries, might be out to create a “rift between them”. He said he would not rule out Indian involvement, recalling that he had in an earlier presser given the time frame of April 16 to 20 in which India was suspected of committing aggression against Pakistan. The Ormara incident, he said, happened on April 18.

“Everyone knows who is backing Baloch terrorists with a view to destabilising Pakistan,” he observed, adding that the presence of Baloch terrorists and their ‘commanders’ in Afghanistan had also been noted. He also asked Kabul to act against them.

FM Qureshi said the two sides would hold detailed discussions on the issue during the meeting of their leadership.

Prime Minister Imran Khan will travel to Iran on Sunday on a two-day visit, which is expected to remain focused on border security due to the Ormara incident and the attack on Islamic Revolution Guards Corps bus in Iran’s Sistan-Baluchestan province in February besides the abduction of 12 Iranian guards from Mirjaveh (Iran) in October 2018.

Pakistani security forces have so far recovered nine of the kidnapped guards. Mr Khan is scheduled to meet President Hassan Rouhani and Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei during his visit.

Mr Qureshi said: “Whenever there was an incident in Iran, Pakistan never disappointed the Iranians. Our role [in helping the Iranian side] is well known to the Iranian leadership. We have always lived up to their expectations. This was our level of seriousness and responsibility.”

Pakistan’s expectation from Iran, therefore, he said, was that of a “visible action so that those anti-Pakistan elements are eliminated”.

The foreign minister said Pakistan had specific “actionable intelligence” about the involvement of BRAS and the presence and location of its “training and logistics camps” on the Iranian side of the 950-km-long porous border between the two countries.

He recalled the steps taken by Pakistan to improve border security, including fencing, increased surveillance of and patrolling along the border, setting up of joint border centres, raising of additional units of Frontier Corps, and setting up of a new command of FC in Turbat.

Published in Dawn, April 21st, 2019