Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Qamar Bajwa, has called on his Iranian counterpart, Gen. Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, to take immediate action to enhance border security and curb the attacks on Pakistani security forces by militants operating from the Iranian side.
In the May 13 phone call, Bajwa stressed that Pakistan wants “regional peace and stability on the basis of mutual respect, non-interference and equality,” according to a statement issued the Pakistan army’s public relations office.
The urgent call for action followed an attack on Pakistan’s side of the border on a reconnaissance vehicle carrying troops from the Frontier Corps. Five Pakistani soldiers and one officer were killed.
The troops were reportedly checking “possible routes used by terrorists in the mountainous and extremely treacherous terrain of Mekran” when an improvised explosive device went off about nine miles from the border with Iran. The banned separatist group the Baluchistan Liberation Army later claimed responsibility for the attack.
Bajwa emphasized that fencing of the Pakistan-Iran border must be completed as soon as possible. Smuggling and illegal trade on the border must be checked as well, as these activities are being “used by terrorists and narco-traffickers for covering their movement,” according to the statement.
The Iranian official newswire Islamic Republic News Agency reported that Bajwa “urged the exchange of expert delegations to maintain border security and prevent terrorist moves on common borders” and that improvements for border terminals on both sides of the border to manage the ongoing pandemic were suggested.
Security ties have deteriorated at the Pakistani-Iranian border as cross-border terror attacks have long caused friction between the neighbors. Nevertheless, there has been considerable improvement in bilateral ties as Islamabad and Tehran have worked on these issues over the last year.
After visits to Iran by Bajwa and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and, a joint task force was set up to fight terrorism and guard the common border. Military links were enhanced and Islamabad started sharing intelligence with Tehran regarding the bases of separatists and militants in Iran, along with their activities. Thanks to these proactive measures, the stream of attacks and counter-attacks in border areas ceased with the last terror incident in at Ormara, Baluchistan, in April 2019.
However, the respite is over. Iran has been in a state of turmoil due to the coronavirus pandemic for the last several months, and the ensuing chaos has had a very negative impact on Pakistan.