The Diplomat: by Ankit Panda —
Amid growing tensions, Pakistan and Iran exchanged mortar fire.
According to Pakistani officials, the Iranian army fired six mortar shells into the Pakistani border town of Mashkail early Friday morning. The BBC reports that Pakistan “is then thought to have fired back.” This exchange of fire comes after months of deteriorating ties between Iran and Pakistan over the security situation in their mutual border in Balochistan. Iran claims that Pakistan has not done enough to prevent Sunni militants from seeking safe-haven in the deserts of Balochistan province in southwest Pakistan, creating instability on the Iranian side of the border in Iran’s Sistan and Baluchistan province.
According to Pakistan’s DAWN, there were no casualties as a result of the mortar fire. One anonymous Pakistan official notes that the Iranian side ceased mortar fire once Pakistan retaliated. ”Mortar shells fired by Iranian border personnel landed 3,000 meters inside Pakistani territory,” he added.
As The Diplomat reported recently, Iran accused Pakistan of letting Sunni militants enter its eastern province after an attack on Iranian border guards last week killed two border officers. Tension between the two countries ticked up sharply in February this year when five Iranian border guards were abducted by the Jaish al-Adl Sunni militant group and taken into Pakistani Balochistan. At that time, the Iranian Interior Minister had suggested that Iran would not hesitate to send troops in to retrieve its soldiers: “If Pakistan doesn’t take the needed steps to fight against the terrorist groups, we will send our forces into Pakistani soil. We will not wait for this country,” he told Iran’s Mehr News.
Despite the exchange of mortar fire and the general increase in bilateral tensions, Pakistan’s Inspector General Frontier Corps Major General Ejaz Shahid and Iranian guards Chief General Qasim Razai met to boost bilateral intelligence cooperation to help maintain peace in Balochistan. “Both chiefs of border forces… agreed to tighten security at the border besides sharing intelligence information to maintain peace and order at the border,” a Pakistani Frontier Corps spokesman noted. “Maj. Gen. Ejaz Shahid told Iranian officials that Pakistan wants durable relations with its neighbors and peace in the region,” the spokesman added.