Pakistan releases 11 Iranian guards after cross-border incursion
Iran said the guards were just chasing drug dealers when they crossed into Pakistani soil Monday. But some in Pakistan suspect it has to do with last week's deadly suicide bombing in Iran.
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Pakistani authorities on Tuesday released 11 Iranians – initially identified as members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard – who had been detained a day earlier for trespassing on Pakistani soil. The guards were arrested on Monday in the Mashkhel area near the Iran-Pakistan border eight days after a suicide bomber in Iran's Sistan-Balochistan province killed 42 people, including Revolutionary Guard commanders.
That attack heightened tensions between the two as Iran alleged those responsible were based in Pakistan. Islamabad denied the accusation.
After the guards' arrest in Pakistan, Iranian state television claimed that the border police had been pursuing suspected drug dealers and followed them into Pakistan as per a normal procedure, reports Al Jazeera. (For a map of the Iran-Pakistan border, click here.)Pakistan's decision to release the detained guards comes two days after Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Iranian Interior Minister Mostafa Najjir agreed to initiate "joint border management to effectively control cross-border movement of terrorists, criminals, and illegal immigrants," reports the Pakistani daily, Dawn.
According to the Tehran Times, an English-language Iranian daily, Pakistan also agreed on Monday to capture and extradite members of Jundallah, the Sunni rebel group accused of launching last week's suicide attack in Iran.
But the brief detention of Iranian guards in Pakistan is expected to further stoke tensions, reports the Telegraph.
[T]here will be suspicion that the true reason for the operation is connected to an attack on the Iranian border town of Pishin on Oct. 18 that killed 42 people, that Iran has linked to Britain, the United States and Pakistani intelligence….
"It's a serious matter," a Pakistani security official was quoted as saying. "We are investigating why they crossed into our territory."
According to Reuters, last week, Iranian state television reported that Mohammad Pakpour, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' ground forces, called for the "issuing of necessary permissions allowing the Guards to confront terrorists on Pakistani soil."
An editorial in a Pakistani national newspaper, The Daily Times, says that tensions with Iran will not be easily resolved.
Baloch nationalism on both sides of the Iran-Pakistan border threatens both nation-states, and solutions on both sides are complicated by the nature of the centralized states and their ideological content….
Iran promises to become as important an ally of Pakistan as China, mainly because of its role as a supplier of energy. At the same time, however, Pakistan has to retain the option of international support, including that of the Arabs — something for which Iran's current government doesn't care much.