Nation special report
KARACHI: The fencing of certain areas along the 950km shared Pakistan-Iran border is now underway, according to Pakistani senator Rehman Malik, Chairman of the senate’s interior committee. Islamabad has already erected fence along the border of Afghanistan which shows the strain relations with both brother Muslim countries.
The border with Iran which begins at the Koh-i-Malik Salih mountain and ends at Gwadar Bay in the Gulf of Oman, includes a diverse landscape of mountain ridges, seasonal streams and rivers, and is notorious for human trafficking and smuggling as well as cross-border militancy. On Friday, the senate was informed by Moazzam Jah Ansarithat, commandant of Frontier Constabulary Balochistan, a paramilitary force in the southwestern province, that Iran was resisting the fencing.
“There are difficulties in fencing but the entire border will be fenced ultimately,” Malik told Arab News on Sunday, and said fencing the entire stretch would take three to four years to complete.
A senior security official told Arab News on condition of anonymity, that the border areas have been categorized for fencing according to different priority levels, numbered priority one, two and three by order of importance and security threat.
“The work on areas in priority-one list is currently underway in full swing,” he said and added that the aim of the fencing was to stop illicit cross-border movements.
“We have selected the areas from where terrorists may cross the border from one to another country,” he said.
Relations between Pakistan and Iran have been strained in recent months and in April, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced that the two countries would form a joint quick reaction force to combat militant activity on their shared border, following a deadly attack on Pakistani security personnel on the coastal highway in southwestern Balochistan, where fourteen soldiers lost their lives.
After the incident, Pakistan lodged a strong protest with Iranian authorities, saying the attackers had crossed over from Iran, and Pakistan’s foreign minister had said Pakistan would fence the shared border with Iran to ensure peace.
Earlier in February, Pakistan Army spokesperson General Asif Gafoor said Pakistan and Iran were considering fencing the common border so that “no third party could sabotage relations” between the two countries.
Pakistan has been battling an armed ethnic Baloch separatist movement for more than a decade, with armed groups carrying out frequent attacks against security forces and government targets in the Balochistan province, amid frequent accusations of safe havens for insurgents in Iran.
Frontier Corps (FC) Balochistan, a paramilitary force, Friday informed the Senate panel that Iran was creating hurdles in Pakistan’s effort to fence the Pak-Iran border. Lt Colonel Hussain of the FC (South) informed the Senate Standing Committee on Interior that Pakistan was “facing resistance from Iran, not overtly but covertly, in its efforts to fence the border” to block infiltration of terrorists as well as smuggling.
“When we start fencing work, Iran creates problems for us,” the official said adding that though Iran officially used to say that it was ready to help Pakistan in fencing the border.
The official was responding to the questions of lawmakers regarding the Ormara incident. JUI-F lawmaker Senator Talha Mahmood had inquired from the FC whether it was not a failure of the civil armed force that more than 15 terrorists allegedly came from Iran and killed 14 passengers near Ormara area of Balochistan.
The FC official told the committee that FC was after the terrorists who were behind the bloodshed and recently 15 miscreants including at least two involved in the incident had been killed. He also underscored the force should be empowered first as it lacked resources and then held accountable on such incidents.
Lt Colonel Hussain told the meeting which met under the chair of PPP Senator Rehman Malik that surveillance equipment would also be installed along the fence and there would be a real-time monitoring of the border.