Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi listens during a news conference at the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad, Pakistan August 20, 2018.
(photo credit: REUTERS/FAISAL MAHMOOD)
Pakistan has announced it will fence off its 960-kilometer border with Iran. The decision was taken a couple of days after the targeted killing of 14 passengers carried out by Iran-based terrorists on the Makran Coastal Highway in Ormara, Baluchistan, in the early hours of April 18.
According to police, terrorists intercepted a passenger bus along the coastal highway extending along the Arabian Sea coast from Karachi to Gwadar. The terrorists offloaded 14 passengers and shot them dead.
“The attack was carried out in the wee hours of April 18,” Mohsin Hassan Butt, inspector-general of the Baluchistan police, told The Media Line
It was one of the worst terrorist attacks in Pakistan by any Iran-based terrorist network and has shaken the entire country, putting bilateral relations at stake.
Islamabad reacted sharply.
Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs dispatched a letter to the Iranian mission in Islamabad protesting Iran’s inaction against an Iran-based terrorist network that has long been involved in attacks in Pakistan.
The letter clearly mentioned that the attack had been carried out by Baloch Raji Aajoi Sangar (BRAS), an alliance of three Baloch terrorist organizations based in Iran. It further stated that Pakistan had "repeatedly" shared intelligence about these activities but Iran failed to act.
“In the recent past, as well on numerous occasions earlier, Pakistan shared information about the hubs of these Baloch terrorist organizations in Iran, having training camps and logistics bases across the border with the Iranian intelligence. Unfortunately, no action has been taken by Iran in this regard to date," the letter stated.
A growing number of terrorist attacks by Iran-based militant groups has now prompted Pakistan to fence off its border with Iran.
“Pakistan has decided to fence off its border with Iran. Soon, work will start in this regard,” Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s foreign minister, confirmed to The Media Line.
Qureshi added that he had spoken to his Iranian counterpart to draw attention to Iran-based terrorist groups, and asked him to take action against them.
“I have spoken to the honorable foreign minister of Iran, Mr. Javad Zarif, who has condemned the terrorist attack. I conveyed sentiments of the people of Pakistan, who were shocked following the latest terrorist attack. We have shared intelligence with Iran on terrorists. I’m sure Iran will take action against terrorists,” Qureshi told The Media Line.
It’s worth noting that Zarif took to Twitter and condemned the attack: "Terrorists, extremists and their sponsors are terrified by close relations between Muslim states. Iran stands with the Pakistani people and government.”
Pakistan’s prime minister was to embark on an official two-day visit to Iran on Sunday. A local news channel quoted Qureshi as saying the prime minister would discuss the terrorist attack with the president of Iran.
“Prime Minister Imran Khan will pay an official visit to Iran on April 21-22, 2019, at the invitation of the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, His Excellency Hassan Rouhani. This will be the first visit of the prime minister to Iran,” the Foreign Office announced last Monday.
Pakistan and Iran have been blaming each other for inaction against terrorist groups inside their respective territories. Cross-border attacks are a burning issue haunting both countries.
On February 13, a Pakistani national slammed his explosives-laden vehicle into a bus carrying off-duty Islamic Republican Guard Corps (IRGC) members in Sistan and Baluchestan in Iran, killing 27. The Pakistan-based Jaish ul-Adl Takfiri terrorist group, which has ties to al-Qaida, claimed responsibility.
Analysts say the attack made both Iran and Pakistan think seriously about fencing off their 960-km. border.
Two months later, the April 18 attack inside Pakistan forced the issue.
“Fencing off the Iran-Pakistan border is indeed a good option to restrict Iran-based terrorist groups from carrying out attacks inside Pakistan. It’s costly, but doable,” Ishtiaq Ahmed, an assistant professor at Quaid Azam University in Islamabad, told The Media Line.
Pakistan is already fencing off its 2,400-km. border with Afghanistan. The decision to close off that border was taken to restrict illegal migration and terrorist infiltrations. As of January, work had been completed on some 900 km. of the border. The projected overall cost is estimated at over $530 million.
On Saturday, Foreign Minister Qureshi told journalists that Pakistan had established a border security force headquartered in Turbat, adding that a plan was under consideration for air surveillance of Pakistan-Iran border.
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