ISLAMABAD: Pak­istan military on Saturday dismissed media reports that Iranian forces had eliminated a Jaishul Adl ‘commander’ inside Pakis­tani territory, suggesting the claims were aimed at mitigating the embarrassment arising from the recent ‘Operation Marg Bar Sarmachar’.

“Social media and some foreign media are spreading false propaganda that Iranian forces have killed a commander of Jaishul Adl on Pakistani soil. No such incident happened on Pakistani soil,” a military source claimed.

Iranian media had initially reported that security forces on Friday killed Esmaeil Shahbakhsh, a militant associated with Jaishul Adl terrorist group. While some Iranian reports were ambiguous about the location of Shahbakhsh’s death, the Tehran Times explicitly stated that the operation occurred within Pakistan.

The military source said a “false narrative was being created by portraying the recent killing, which happened due to cross-firing between smuggler groups as a counter-terrorism operation”.

“Various false narratives are being fabricated to clear the embarrassment caused by Operation Marg Bar Sarmachar,” the source said.

Pakistan’s airstrikes on Jan 18 against alleged Baloch insurgents’ hideouts in Iran, which were carried out in retaliation to Iranian missile attacks on a sanctuary of Jaishul Adl on Pakistani territory are codenamed ‘Operation Marg Bar Sarmchar’.

‘Unscheduled’ phone call

Shahbakhsh was implicated in recent terrorist activities in southeastern Iran, with the Tehran Times describing his death as the outcome of a ‘sophisticated intelligence and military operation’ by Iranian forces.

Pakistani and Iranian foreign ministers had, meanwhile, spoken over the phone late Friday evening, which was claimed by some diplomatic sources as unscheduled.

The Foreign Office explained that Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian had called to congratulate Pakistan on recent elections and reiterate the desire to strengthen bilateral ties.

The Iranian side had, meanwhile, claimed that the two sides reviewed the progress made on the understanding reached at the time of restoration of bilateral ties after a brief breakdown marked by reciprocal missile strikes.

The two sides had on that occasion agreed to station liaison officers in border areas, besides renewing their commitment to fully enforce existing security pacts for addressing curb cross-border terrorism that has been a source of tension in the bilateral ties between the two countries. Amir-Abdollahian, according to the Iranian side, underscored the significance of maintaining effective communication between pertinent institutions to ensure the swift and successful implementation of these agreements.

Published in Dawn, February 25th, 2024

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