By Alok Bhatt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
MASHKHEL, Iran – The Pakistani government recently released the eleven alleged members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRG) whom border police detained for illegal entry into Pakistan. Although the Pakistan initially identified the arrested individuals as members of the IRG, they later confirmed their status as security guards. It is unknown how this reclassification informed the government’s decision to release the prisoners.
Pakistani border control was patrolling the area for drug-dealers crossing into Pakistan. Suspecting the eleven men were drug-dealers, border control pursued them after they crossed the Pakistani border. Pakistan’s border police arrested the men in the Baluchistan province.
Pakistan and Iran do not have a general history of hostility concerning borders. However, last week’s suicide-bomb attack in the Mashkhel region of the Pakistan-Iran border, which left over 50 dead, incensed tensions between the neighboring nations. Furthermore, the small insurgency operations occurring along the southwestern border region over the past decade caused an increase in patrolling activity.
A Sunni Muslim group known has Jundallah, or God’s Soldiers, claimed responsibility for the suicide-bomb attack in Mashkhel. The Iranian government criticized the Pakistani government for unreasonably detaining members of the IRG. Military personnel asserted that it is the protocol of the Iranian law enforcement to chase suspects into Pakistani borders has there been actually been an instance of drug-dealers fleeing from Iran into Pakistan.
Iranian personnel stated that the Pakistani border control’s brazen actions represent counterintuitive acts of hostility in a time when both nations face insurgent attacks. They also pleaded that Pakistan be more cooperative with Iran instead of committing wrongful acts against them. The regions constituting the border between Pakistan and Iran signify a zone of neutrality between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims. Considering the interaction between the two groups at the borders, Iranians have voiced a concern that the recent friction between the two states may compromise the rare peace among members of the two opposing groups.
However, not all Iranians plead to the sensibilities of the people. A senior commander of the IRG recently stated his desire to meet Pakistan militants within Pakistan’s borders with the IRG. Also, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejhad publicly announced that some members of Pakistan’s intelligence agency have been colluding with the Jundallah to perpetrate many of the suicide bombings.
While the strife continues between the Iran and Pakistan, the fate of each states’ respective civilians lies in the cross-fire. Until both nations recognize their common cause against insurgency in the area, it seems peace will not settle in the border regions.
For more information, please see:
Al-Jazeera – Pakistan Frees Iranian Guards – 27 October 2009
CBS News – Pakistan Frees 11 Iran Security Officers – 27 October 2009
VOA News – Pakistan Frees 11 Iranian Guards Arrested Near SW Border – 27 October 2009