TEHRAN/ QUETTA/ ISLAMABAD:
Iran upped the ante in its quest to recover border guards from the captivity of militants on Thursday, warning Pakistan of a cross-border raid by an elite task force to free the abducted men from Jaishul Adl’s bases.
“If there is no cooperation from the security authorities of Pakistan, Iranian task force units will attack the base of terrorists inside Pakistan,” said Syed Hossein Naqavi Hosseini, rapporteur of Iran’s parliament on national security and foreign policy. “Iran is prepared to act independently to crush the Jaishul Adl if the Pakistan government is incapable of doing so.”
The remarks came despite fresh consultations between Pakistani and Iranian officials on the release of the abducted border guards.
“Talks with national and local Pakistani officials have been held at different levels and they have made some promises,” Sistan and Baluchestan Governor Ali Awsat Hashemi told Iranian news agency FNA. He expressed the hope that the young border guards would be released to return to their families soon.
At the same time, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has urged the United Nations help to secure the release of Iranian border soldiers abducted by militants. Zarif sent a message to UN chief Ban Ki-moon Wednesday evening demanding action from the international community, saying “mere condemnation of acts of terrorism is not enough.” His urgent plea to the UN chief came after Jaishul Adl, the rebel group operating in southeast Iran, claimed to have killed one of the five abducted soldiers and threatened further executions.
He linked the abduction to what he termed a series of “terrorist atrocities against Iranian citizens, including diplomats and other officials,” according to a copy of his letter to Ban posted on his Facebook page. The minister decried action against Iran by “state-sponsored extremist groups, with similar patterns of funding, coordination, support and direction.”
A diplomatic source in Tehran said the letter could pave the way for a debate within the UN as ‘state-sponsored terrorism’ is a regional issue.
Zarif did not name any countries but Iranian officials have pointed the finger of blame at regional rivals, particularly Saudi Arabia, for a number of attacks against Iranian diplomatic missions in Lebanon, Pakistan and Yemen.
Tehran alleges the young soldiers, who were serving their 24-month mandatory military service, were taken into Pakistan after being kidnapped in February. Ties with Islamabad have taken hit since the abduction, with Iran criticising what it calls Pakistan’s inability to secure its borders and purge its soil of militants.
In a phone call with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday, Iran’s President Hassan Rowhani demanded ‘serious and swift action’ to free the soldiers.
Missing guards not in Pakistan: FO
Pakistan’s Foreign Office on Thursday sought to de-escalate the brewing diplomatic tension with Iran, insisting that the missing Iranian guards were not in the country.
“Our authorities have combed the entire area. It has been done repeatedly, yet there are no signs indicating that the missing guards were brought to Pakistan,” FO Spokesperson Tasnim Aslam said at her weekly briefing.
She dismissed reports that the Iranian president threatened Pakistan over the guard’s kidnapping in a phone call with Prime Minister Nawaz. “The tone of the discussions has been positive and friendly, unlike, the impression in media. We are neither apologetic nor we are expected to be aggressive,” she said.
“We are ready to help in locating these missing guards wherever they are. Our cooperation will continue as we have done in the past. This was also acknowledged by the Iranian leadership and officials,” Tasnim added.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 28th, 2014.
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