ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office on Thursday urged Iran to punish culprits of Panjgur cross-border attack.

Four Pakistani troops were martyred when terrorists on Wednesday attacked a security forces’ convoy in Panjgur district located on the border with Iran. The attack occurred when the convoy was patrolling the border.

“We call upon the Iranian authorities to ensure a thorough investigation of the matter and hold the perpetrators accountable,” Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said at the weekly media briefing.

Ms Baloch said that Iranian soil had been used for attacking the security forces.

Soon after the attack, the army had asked Iran to hunt the terrorists, who are believed to be based across the border. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, meanwhile, asked Iran to ensure that its territory was not used by terrorists for launching cross-border attacks.

Recalling Pakistan’s commitment to preventing cross-border terrorism, the spokesperson said that Islamabad expected a similar resolve from Iran.

The Foreign Office spokesperson did not say if the Iranian envoy was summoned or other channels were used to convey Pakistan’s protest over the attack.

“We have channels of communication and these channels of communication are active and our concerns regarding this incident are being shared with Iran,” Ms Baloch said in response to a query.

The two countries share a 909-km-long border, which is infested with criminal gangs, militants, and drug traffickers. Several violent incidents have occurred on both sides of the border in which members of security forces of the two countries have been attacked by terrorists in the past.

These incidents have long remained a major cause of distrust in Pakistan-Iran ties.

Lately both countries have taken steps to improve border security including the erection of the border fence by Pakistan at a cost of Rs3 billion to check unauthorised cross-border movement. This led to significant improvement in the situation. However, the occasional incidents keep straining relations.

Although there was no word from Tehran on the attack, the Iranian embassy in Islamabad, while condemning the attack, reminded that “terrorism is the common pain of Iran and Pakistan and both sides have been victims of this ominous phenomenon”.

PM’s interview

In reply to a question about Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s interview in which he called upon Indian leadership to hold “serious and sincere” talks for resolving bilateral disputes, the spokesperson blamed New Delhi for obstructing peace.

“India’s unabated hostility and retrogressive actions have vitiated the environment and impeded the prospects for peace and cooperation,” she recalled and added that the onus was on India to create an enabling environment conducive for meaningful and result oriented dialogue.

Ms Baloch said that the reversal of Aug 5, 2019, annexation of occupied Kashmir by India was a pre-requisite for any engagement.

In reply to another question about PM Sharif asking UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan to facilitate resumption of dialogue with India, the spokesperson said Pakistan would appreciate if the international community, especially friendly countries, would convince India to take steps towards resumption of dialogue.

Published in Dawn, January 20th, 2023

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