QUETTA, Pakistan -- A senior Pakistani government official says Iranian claims are wrong about the presence of rebels in remote regions of Pakistan’s southwestern province of Balochistan.
Asad Gilani, the most senior civil servant in Balochistan's Interior Ministry, told Radio Mashaal on March 7 that Tehran and Islamabad agreed to work jointly across their long desert border to free five Iranian soldiers from an extremist Sunni faction allegedly hiding inside Pakistan.
But, he said, information that Iranian forces provided about militant hideouts inside Pakistan proved wrong.
Last month, Pakistan urged Iran to respect its borders after Tehran threatened to send forces to free the Iranian guards kidnapped on February 6. Jaish-ul Adl, a Sunni Islamist Baluch militant group had claimed responsibility for the abductions.
The vast desert region of Balochistan is divided between Iran and Pakistan. Thousands of people have died in violence linked to Baluch separatists and army operations to counter them in the past decade.
The strategically located, resource-rich region also sees violence linked to sectarian conflict and criminal and drug groups. Natural disasters and extreme poverty have also made life difficult for many ordinary people.
In Shi’ite-dominated Iran, the Baluch are a small Sunni minority mainly concentrated in the southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan Province. Baluch factions have been blamed for abducting and attacking Iranian security forces for years.
International human rights watchdogs have also reported grave human rights abuses, including a high number of enforced disappearances and executions, in the Baluch regions of both Pakistan and Iran.
Reports say that Baluch prisoners are sometimes executed in revenge for militant attacks in Iran.