Pakistan tells Iran it wants to build trust after tit-for-tat strikes

Pakistani foreign minister speaks to his Iranian counterpart, underscores the need for closer cooperation on security issues

By Reuters

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A local resident shows a mountain at the Koh-e-Sabz area of Pakistan's south-west Baluchistan province where Iran launched an airstrike. — AFP
A local resident shows a mountain at the Koh-e-Sabz area of Pakistan's south-west Baluchistan province where Iran launched an airstrike. — AFP

Published: Fri 19 Jan 2024, 6:27 PM

Pakistan expressed its willingness to work with Iran on "all issues" in a call between their foreign ministers on Friday after both countries exchanged drone and missile strikes on militant bases on each other's territory.

The tit-for-tat strikes by the two countries are the highest-profile cross-border intrusions in recent years and have raised alarm about wider instability in the Middle East since the war between Israel and Hamas erupted on October 7.

However, both sides have already signalled a desire to cool tensions, although they have had a history of rocky relations.

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A statement from Pakistan's foreign office said Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani had spoken to his Iranian counterpart, Hossein Amirabdollahian, on Friday, a day after Pakistan carried out strikes in Iran.

Iran said Thursday's strikes killed nine people in a border village on its territory, including four children. Pakistan said the Iranian attack on Tuesday killed two children.

"Foreign Minister Jilani expressed Pakistan’s readiness to work with Iran on all issues based on spirit of mutual trust and cooperation," the statement said. "He underscored the need for closer cooperation on security issues."

The comment follows a call between Jilani and his Turkish counterpart in which Islamabad said "Pakistan has no interest or desire in escalation".

Pakistan's Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar ul Haq Kakar began a meeting of the National Security Committee, with all the military services chiefs in attendance, a source in the prime minister's Office said.

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The meeting aims at a "broad national security review in the aftermath of the Iran-Pakistan incidents", Information Minister Murtaza Solangi said. Kakar cut short a visit to the World Economic Forum in Davos and flew home on Thursday.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the two nations to exercise maximum restraint. The US also urged restraint although President Joe Biden said the clashes showed that Iran is not well liked in the region.

Islamabad said it hit bases of the separatist Baloch Liberation Front and Baloch Liberation Army, while Tehran said its drones and missiles struck militants from the Jaish al Adl (JAA) group.

The militant groups operate in an area that includes Pakistan's southwestern province of Balochistan and Iran's southeastern Sistan-Baluchestan province. Both are restive, mineral-rich and largely underdeveloped.

The groups struck by Islamabad have been waging an armed insurgency for decades against the Pakistani state, including attacks against Chinese citizens and investment projects in Balochistan.

The JAA, which Iran attacked, is also an ethnic militant group. The group, which has had links to the Daesh group, has carried out attacks in Iran against its powerful Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Against the backdrop of the war in Gaza, Iran and its allies have been flexing their muscles in the region. This week Iran also launched strikes on Syria against what it said were Daesh sites, and Iraq, where it said it had struck an Israeli espionage centre.

Inside Pakistan, civilian leaders came together to throw their support behind the military despite a deeply divided political arena in the buildup to national elections next month.

Former foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, a candidate for his party for prime minister, and the party of three-time premier Nawaz Sharif, considered an electoral frontrunner in the polls, said Pakistan had the right to defend itself but called for dialogue with Iran moving ahead.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party of jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan also condemned Iran, but called the strikes on Pakistan a failure of the caretaker government brought in to oversee the elections.

The PTI "seeks an immediate explanation from the unconstitutional, illegal, unrepresentative and unelected government for its complete failure to safeguard the integrity, security and defence of Pakistan," it said in a statement.


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