ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN - Pakistan has criticized Iran for threatening to launch cross-border military strikes against suspected Sunni militants whom Tehran says are plotting attacks in the Shi’ite-majority nation.
Pakistan's Foreign Ministry says the Iranian ambassador in Islamabad was summoned Tuesday following the reported remarks by the Iran's military chief. A ministry statement said, “The Iranian side was urged to avoid issuance of such statements that could vitiate the environment of fraternal relations.”
Iran’s state media on Monday quoted Major General Mohammad Baqeri, the head of the armed forces, as saying Pakistan is expected to control its own border and take action against the terrorist bases.
"If the terrorist attacks continue, we will hit their safe havens and cells, wherever they are,” the general warned. The warning came days after an alleged cross-border militant raid killed at least 10 members of the Iranian security forces.
An anti-Iran Sunni Muslim militant group called Jaish al Adl, or the Army of Justice, claimed responsibility for the April 26 ambush in the southeastern border province of Sistan-Balouchestan.
Pakistani officials have urged Iran to share evidence to enable them to go after the suspects.
Shortly after the attack, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani wrote to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, calling for the perpetrators to be arrested and handed over to Tehran.
Last week, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visited Islamabad and raised the issue with Pakistani leaders, urging them to strengthen security along their shared border of nearly 1,000-kilometers.
An official statement issued after the meetings said the two sides agreed to enhance border security coordination, including deployment of additional Pakistani troops to prevent illegal crossings.
Officials said the two governments also agreed “in principle to revive a hotline” between their border security forces to resolve any issues at the frontier.
Tehran has long alleged that anti-state militants use Pakistani soil for plotting terrorist attacks against Iran.
Islamabad maintains it is extending full cooperation to the neighboring country to deal with the terrorist threat and has in the past handed over fugitive Iranian militants.
The issue of alleged anti-Iran militant sanctuaries inside Pakistan remains a source of tension in bilateral relations.
Pakistan’s recent decision to join a Saudi Arabia-led military coalition of 41 predominantly Sunni Muslim nations also has upset Iran.
A former Pakistani military chief, retired General Raheel Sharif, is already in Riyadh, where he is preparing to take charge as the first commander-in-chief of the alliance.
Defense ministers of member nations also are due to hold an inaugural meeting later this month.
Tehran sees the military alliance as an anti-Iran group and an attempt to expand Saudi influence in the region. Saudi and Pakistani officials reject the assertions as unfounded.