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Category — IRAN-PAK TIES

Iran annoyed at shelving of IP gas pipeline project

by Khalid Mustafa in the News, Sept 28, 2017
ISLAMABAD: Iran has shown its annoyance at shelving of the Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline project by the Government of Pakistan and showed its grave concern that for the last one and half years, no official delegation from Islamabad turned up in Tehran to review gas sales and purchase agreement (GSPA), one of top officials of Energy Ministry dealing with petroleum division told The News.

“Iran has come up with its annoyance and reservations about the project in a letter written to the federal minister for petroleum and natural resources who is right now the Prime Minister of Pakistan,” he said.

Pakistan and Iran had signed Gas Sales Purchase Agreement (GSPA) under IP project in 2009 in era of Pakistan Peoples’ Party.

“More importantly, China is also extremely upset over the sudden shelving of the project as its company CPP had finalised the agreement with Pakistan for building the 700 kilometers of the LNG pipeline from Gawadar to Nawabshah (as a part of IP project). China’s EXIM bank had agreed to fund the project under which 85 percent financing was to be arranged from China and to this effect an agreement was signed in September 2016 and since then no progress was done and ultimately the project was shelved. Chinese delegation has recently visited Pakistan and showed its concern over the sudden closure of the project and offered more relaxations in the price of the project. Since the Prime Minister has come back from US and he will himself meet with the Chinese officials and with his input, the petroleum division will also respond to the authorities in Iran,” he said.

The official also disclosed that Iran was not officially told by Pakistan that the said project is not alive which has also irritated the authorities in Iran. However, the official of the petroleum division dealing with IP project offered no comments over the development.

Iran, which has invested huge amount in laying down pipeline with diameter of 56 inches in its jurisdiction under IP gas line project from Paras gas field up to the area bordering with Pakistan, but Islamabad failed to comply with the provisions of the agreement inked with Tehran. In a recent letter sent to Pakistan in the name of Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources who is now Prime |Minister of Pakistan Mr Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Iran has expressed its dismay over zero progress on 781 kilometers pipeline under IP project to be laid down by Pakistan in its territory.

When the price of gas to be imported from Turkmenistan through Tapi gas line had been finalized lower than the Iranian gas price, Pakistan wanted to get the Gas Sales Price Agreement (GSPA) reviewed with penalty clause seeking application of penalty of $1 million per day from December 2018 and to this effect Iran was open to the amendment in the GSPA. Iran was also ready even to re-negotiate the price of gas as there is a clause which reads in case the buyer country manages the import of piped gas at lower price from any other country, then Iran will match it. “Unfortunately, no delegation from Islamabad went to Tehran for reviewing the gas price downward on account of unknown reasons and this has irked authorities in Iran too,” said a source./cx

Till now Iran has not responded positively to the move of Pakistan seeking force majeure. However, Iran has not demanded the penalty which is due from January 1, 2015 knowing the ground realities. US and one of the influential countries of Middle East were opposed to laying down of the pipeline and apparently because of the tremendous pressure on part of the said both countries, the government had shelved the project, which has been reported in this newspaper.

At that time the Minister of Petroleum and Natural Resources Shaid Khaqan Abbasi had said that IP project had been deferred and private sector is being encouraged to import LNG to cater to the future needs of the country. Abbasi had said that new LNG terminals are being erected. “If private sector succeeds, then the government may abandon the project,” Abbasi had argued.

It is important to note when the Nawaz government came in power in 2013, it was eager to compete this project and it had adopted very innovative strategy to complete this project in the presence of the economic sanctions and to avoid the wrath of US and one Middle Eastern country. The Nawaz government decided to construct $1.6 billion strategic and vital Gawadar-Nawabshah LNG Terminal and Pipeline Project (GNGP). Under this project, 700 kilometers LNG pipeline was to be constructed from Nawabshah to Gawadar and Iran was told LNG pipeline would be funded by China and when the sanctions on Iran would be erased completely, then this pipeline will be extended backward to Iran from Gawadar and then the whole pipeline would be re-named as IP gas line. This argument was sent out to authorities in Iran which is why it did not impose any penalty on Pakistan.

But now the scenario has changed as the IP project has been shelved. And according to the insiders, the said gulf country that always terms Iran the dangerous country to its existence, was factually opposed the IP project and mounted its pressure further on the top leadership of the country to erase this project once and for all saying the Gawadar-Nawabshah LNG terminal & Pipeline Project (GNGP) will ultimately be turned into Iran-Pakistan pipeline. Under Gawadar-Nawabshah LNG terminal & Pipeline Project (GNGP), gas pipeline of 700 kilometers was to be laid down and two LNG terminals were to be constructed at Gawadar port.https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/233068-Iran-annoyed-at-shelving-of-IP-gas-pipeline-project

September 28, 2017   No Comments

Four Shia Hazaras gunned down near Quetta: by Saleem Shahid in Dawn, Sept 11th, 2017

QUETTA: Four members of the Shia Hazara community, among them a 12-year-old boy, were killed and two others injured in an attack in Kuchlak, a town some 30km northwest of here, on Sunday.

Official sources said that eight members of a Hazara family were travelling to Quetta from Chaman in a vehicle. They had stopped near a petrol pump to take a brief rest when two men on a motorcycle appeared and opened fire on them.

They said that three of the six people hit died while the 12-year-old succumbed to injuries during treatment at the trauma centre of Quetta’s Civil Hospital.

Two women members of the family sitting in the vehicle escaped unhurt.

Kuchlak DSP Tanvir Shah told Dawn that automatic weapons had been used in the attack.

After receiving information about the incident, police and Levies personnel rushed to the area and shifted the bodies and the injured to the hospital.

Sources in the hospital told Dawn that all the victims received multiple bullet wounds in upper parts of their bodies.

They said the two injured were in serious condition and shifted to the Combined Military Hospital in Quetta.

According to a police officer, the Hazara family had come to Chaman from Afghanistan in the afternoon.

He identified three of the deceased as Mohammad Mehdi, Yazdan Khan and Ghulam Hussain. The boy’s name could not be ascertained.

The injured were identified as Mohammad Ismail and Abdul Wakil.

After the incident, security forces launched a search operation in Kuchlak and adjacent areas to arrest those involved in the attack.

However, no arrest was reported till late night.

The Levies force has begun investigation into the incident. https://www.dawn.com/news/1356900/four-shia-hazaras-gunned-down-near-quetta

Two Khassadars injured in Landikotal IED blast : Report in the News, September 11, 2017
LANDIKOTAL: Two Khassadar personnel were injured in an improvised explosive device (IED) explosion at Satara Meel Checkpost here Sunday, official sources said.

They said militants had planted a time bomb to a tree near the checkpost and it went off in the evening, injuring two Khassadars on duty.

Soon after the blast, the security forces and officials of the Landikotal administration cordoned off the area. They also conducted a search operation and collected evidences from the scene. The wounded Khassadars were identified as Muntazir and Quaid-e-Azam, residents of Khyber Zakhakhel area in Landikotal. Hospital sources confirmed that the injured were out of danger. www.thenews.com.pk/print/229156-Two-Khassadars-injured-in-Landikotal-IED-blast

September 11, 2017   No Comments

Protest against ‘injustice’ with pilgrims at Taftan: report

Dawn, August 17th, 2017
SUKKUR:The Shia Rabita Council and Waliul Asr Organisation held a protest in front of the press club of Sukkur on Wednesday against injustices meted out to pilgrims at Taftan border.

According to detail, the protest was led by council chairman Allama Ali Bux Sajjadi, Maulana Ghulam Abbas Jatoi, Maulana Asif Ali Askari and others.

The protesters alleged that the government was creating problems for the pilgrims, who intended to go to visit their holy places without any justification.

They said elderly people, women and children faced problems due to lack of facilities, including drinking water and food, at the Taftan border.

They also demanded of the federal and provincial government for providing security to the pilgrims up to Quetta so that they could reach their homes safely.

August 17, 2017   No Comments

4 Hazaras shot dead near Mastung as gunmen open fire on vehicle

by Syed Ali Shah in Dawn, July 19, 2017
At least four people belonging to the ethnic Hazara Shia community were shot dead when unidentified gunmen opened fire on their vehicle near Balochistan’s Mastung area on Wednesday, police sources said.

A woman was among the slain people. According to police sources, the incident was an act of targeted killing.

The assailants escaped unhurt after carrying out the attack. Police and other Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) personnel reached the site and started an investigation into the incident.

Balochistan Home Minister Sarfaraz Bugti strongly condemned the incident and termed it “against the social and tribal norms of Balochistan”.

Balochistan has been experiencing incidents of violence and targeted killings since more than a decade. More than 1,400 incidents targeting the minority Shia and Hazara community have taken place in the province during the past 15 years.

While sectarian terrorism in Balochistan has disproportionately targeted the Hazara community, easily identifiable because of their distinctive physical appearance, other Shias — especially pilgrims travelling to and from Iran — have not been spared either. https://www.dawn.com/news/1346285/4-hazaras-shot-dead-near-mastung-as-gunmen-open-fire-on-vehicle

July 19, 2017   No Comments

Two civilians killed in cross-border attack: Iran

AFP report in Dawn, July 17th, 2017
TEHRAN: Two Iranian civilians were killed in a cross-border attack by suspected insurgents in Pakistan, the Revolutionary Guards said.

“On Saturday evening, a terrorist team… fired (ammunition) from within Pakistani territory towards the Iranian border region of Saravan” in Sistan-Baluchestan province, the Guards said in a statement on their Sepahnews website.

Two local workers were killed in the attack, it added.

Forces from the Quds force — the Guards’ foreign operations wing— killed one of the attackers and wounded two, while others fled back into Pakistani territory, the statement claimed.

The insurgent group was not identified, but for years the region has been the site of frequent attacks by the Jaish al-Adl group, which Tehran says has links to Al Qaeda and is based in Balochistan.

Jaish al-Adl was blamed for an attack in April that killed 10 Iranian border guards in the nearby Mirjaveh region. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had then written to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, calling for greater efforts to prevent such attacks along the border.

The Guards also said on June 19 that they had killed the leader and four members of another jihadi group called Ansar al-Furqan in the Iranian port city of Chabahar in Sistan-Baluchestan province. https://www.dawn.com/news/1345873/two-civilians-killed-in-cross-border-attack-iran

July 18, 2017   No Comments

Pakistani journalist working for Iranian news agency attacked

by Ikram Junaidi in Dawn, June 2nd, 2017
ISLAMABAD: A 25-year-old journalist — Zeshan Ali, who works for the Iranian news agency IRNA — was injured after being tortured by two armed men here on Thursday.

Muhammad Raza Monafi, IRNA’s bureau chief in Islamabad, told Dawn that Mr Ali after covering usual events of Ramazan in Sector G-9 was returning to the agency’s office in Sector G-6 when two men riding a motorcycle intercepted his bike and beat him up.

“The two men, who were in civil dresses, were armed with a pistol and a knife and there was no number plate on their motorbike. They snatched two cameras and other belongings of Mr Ali and also tortured him,” he said.

Mr Monafi said that Mr Ali was taken to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences where medical treatment was provided to him. After being kept under observation for about three hours, he was discharged from the hospital.

He said the incident took place at around 1pm. “I cannot understand the reason behind the incident because Mr Ali, a Pakistani, is not involved in any illegal activity and he was doing normal coverage of Ramazan activities,” he said.

“I will visit the police station on Friday [today] to find out if there is any progress in the investigation of the case,” he said.

June 2, 2017   No Comments

Iranian mortar kills man in Panjgur :

By Behram Baloch in Dawn, May 28, 2017
QUETTA: A Pakistani man was killed when a mortar shell fired by Iranian security forces from across the border hit his vehicle in a border village in Panjgur district on Saturday.

Confirming the incident, of ficial sources said that two mortar shells were fired from across the border. One of them hit the moving vehicle and the other landed in an open area. They said the incident took place in Nukkar village, close to the Pak-Iran border.

The victim was identified as Karim Jan who hailed from Balochistan`s Washuk district. He received multiple wounds and died on the spot. The vehicle was badly damaged by the hit.

Panjgur Deputy Commissioner Abdul Jabbar Baloch told Dawn that the district administration had strongly protested with Iranian authorities over firing of rockets and mortar shells by their border forces.

`We have convened a flag meeting with Iranian authorities on Sunday to lodge protest over the recent incident,` he added.

Relations between Iran and Pakistan have been at a low ebb since 10 Iranian border guards were killed by militants last month. Iran alleged that the Jaish al Adl militant group had opened fire from inside Pakistan.

Earlier, anIranianofficial warned Islamabad that Tehran would hit `bases` inside Pakistan if the government did not confront militants who carry out attacks.

May 28, 2017   No Comments

Calming border tensions : edit in The Express Tribune, May 11th, 2017.

Fissures caused by a recent attack on Iranian guards by Jaish-e-Adl members along the Pakistan-Iran border had threatened to chip away at the cordiality with which Islamabad and Tehran deal with each other bilaterally and multilaterally.

Since the beginning of this month Pakistani officials have made a few half-hearted gestures to reassure the Iranians that greater attempts would be made to stub out these threats and ensure they won’t recur. Tehran gave off diplomatic signs that it understood some of its neighbour’s constraints and helplessness against shadowy outfits and even appeared to have forgotten the episode.

But alas that was a diplomatic misreading of the case, because within days Iran’s top military officer, Major General Mohammed Baqeri, threatened to mount attacks on safe havens and sanctuaries of terror outfits even if these were located in Pakistan.
The warning — not too dissimilar from the one issued by another neighbour (Afghanistan) earlier — came with a set of instructions: Islamabad should control its side of the border, nab the terrorists linked to Jaish-e-Adl and shut down its bases. The threat was delivered at a rather inopportune time for Pakistan, when the country’s security forces were busy rebuffing a border incursion by Afghan forces.

After some delay, the Foreign Office summoned the Iranian envoy and conveyed its deep concern over the tone and tenor used by the Iranian general against Pakistan. The language of threats is best avoided among neighbours. The two sides could fall back on a host of recommended measures to tackle border irritants and the like. Perhaps the recently-constituted Pakistan-Iran border commission — which is to hold its maiden meeting this month — could help de-escalate the tensions.

The first task of the commission is to devise a workable border management plan that will curb illegal cross-border movement and combat drug trafficking. A tall order maybe but needed all the same. https://tribune.com.pk/story/1406468/calming-border-tensions/

May 11, 2017   No Comments

Strains in Pakistan-Iran relations

by Javid Husain in The Nation, May 9, 2017
The writer is a retired ambassador and the president of the Lahore Council for World Affairs

Signs of strains in Pakistan-Iran relations have been unmistakable for quite some time.
First came reports of Iranian disquiet about Pakistan’s participation in the Saudi-led Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT).
It was quite clear that, despite the assurances given by Pakistan at various levels that it would not be a party to any anti-Iran activity by this organisation, Tehran continued to view it with deep mistrust and apprehensions.
This was not entirely surprising considering the statements made by Saudi and US leaders pointing out that the main objective of the new organisation would be to counter Iranian interests in the region.
It was also alleged by some quarters that this Alliance was sectarian in character being an Alliance of Sunni-majority states against Shia majority states such as Iran and Iraq, both of which are not its members.
The departure of General (Retired) Raheel Sharif, former Chief of the Army Staff, for Saudi Arabia on 21 April to assume the command of this Alliance merely added to Iranian apprehensions which the visit of a Pakistani parliamentary delegation, led by the Speaker of the National Assembly, to Iran last month was not able to overcome.
In a telling remark, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq on 24 April that the countries which had been supporting terrorist groups could “not claim to be combating them”.

Iranian concerns are not totally unwarranted.
On 19 April, US Defence Secretary James Mattis, after meetings with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud and Prince Mohammad bin Salman, Deputy Crown Prince and Defence Minister, welcomed the move to form an Alliance of Arab and other Muslim countries to counter Iranian influence in the region.
Prince Mohammed himself in an interview given to MBC television stated on 2 May stated, “How can we get along with regime (in Iran) which has an extremist ideology….
and a profound wish to dominate the Muslim world and spread the Shiite faith?” The remark not only reflects the deep-seated hostility with which Saudi Arabia views Iran and its activities in the region but, more importantly, the dangers of IMAFT assuming a sectarian character thereby aggravating the divisions and disputes within the Muslim world instead of strengthening its unity.
Obviously such a development would also undermine Pakistan’s internal political stability and social harmony besides having serious adverse repercussions on Pakistan-Iran relations.
The forthcoming meeting of the Defence Ministers of IMAFT provides us with a useful opportunity to ensure that the Alliance’s activities remain focused on combatting terrorism in accordance with its generally accepted definition within the Muslim world, that it does not become a vehicle for anti-Iran operations or assume a sectarian character, and that it refrains from interference in the internal affairs of other states and from involvement in intra-Arab disputes.

These developments coincided with a press release issued by ISPR on 12 April, 2017 on the basis of a confessional statement recorded by Uzair Jan Baloch a year earlier that he had been passing on secret information about the Pakistan army, its intelligence wings, and key security installations of the country to an Iranian intelligence agency.
The allegation was rejected by the Iranian embassy in Islamabad as “unfounded”.
The embassy claimed that the “dissemination of such baseless” material was aimed at turning the public opinion in Pakistan against Iran, and was “not commensurate with the trajectory of expanding bilateral relations in all spheres between two friendly and brotherly countries of Iran and Pakistan”.
It would also be recalled that earlier in March last year Kulbhushan Jadhav, a serving officer of the Indian navy, who was based in Chahbahar, was arrested in Pakistani Balochistan on charges of involvement in terrorist and subversive activities in Pakistan, especially in Balochistan and Karachi.
The report of his arrest was made public on the eve of the visit of the Iranian President to Pakistan the same month.
Viewed from the point of view of Pakistan-Iran relations, the media handling of the report of Kulbhushan’s arrest during and after the Iranian President’s visit left a lot to be desired.

More recently, on 26 April ten Iranian border guards were killed in a terrorist attack carried out by Jash al-Adl, a Sunni militant group, at Mirjaveh near the border with Pakistan.
Similar incidents had taken place in earlier years also.
According to Iranian allegations, the militant group is based in Pakistani Balochistan and enjoys the support of intelligence agencies from the Gulf and the West.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry lodged a protest with the Pakistan ambassador over the incident.
In addition, its spokesman, in a statement, held the Pakistan government accountable for the terrorist attack and pointedly remarked that “the countries that are participating in the anti-terrorist coalition should respond why they are unable to deal with terrorist groups and armed bandits in their territories.
” Here in Islamabad, the Foreign Office assured the Iranian ambassador, who conveyed his government’s concern over the terrorist attack, that Pakistan would extend full cooperation to the Iranian government in strengthening coordination and security along the border.
The seriousness of the Iranian concern was brought home by a letter from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressing the hope that “those responsible for this terrorist attack (would) be arrested and prosecuted”.
Rouhani noted that “Pakistan’s safety, growth, and progress have always topped Iran’s agenda of ties with the friendly and neighbouring country….
Iran’s soil has never been abused against any of its neighbours including Pakistan”.
He added, however, that Iran “is very disheartened that it is repeatedly transgressed upon from the Pakistani soil by armed bandits and terrorist hirelings.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif visited Islamabad on 4 May to press Pakistani authorities to take action against terrorists involved in the attack on the Iranian border guards and adopt necessary measures to prevent such attacks in the future.
Jawad Zarif had meetings with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, and National Security Adviser Lt.General (Retired) Nasser Janjua.
During these meetings, the Iranian Foreign Minister was assured that Pakistan would take steps to prevent cross-border attacks, including the deployment of additional troops along its border with Iran.
The two sides also agreed to ensure better coordination, greater intelligence sharing, and frequent interactions at political, military and security levels.

The importance of friendly relations between Pakistan and Iran for their security and economic progress cannot be overemphasised.
The current strains in their relations are, therefore, highly regrettable.
Islamabad and Tehran must handle their vital bilateral relationship with great care to safeguard and promote their shared political, security, and economic interests.
At the same time, they should learn to deal with their differences on various issues through mutual understanding and accommodation.
Unfortunately, both the countries were guilty of serious blunders in handling the Afghanistan issue and their bilateral relations in 1990’s with serious adverse repercussions on their security and economic well-being.
They cannot afford to repeat those mistakes.They must also beware of the intrigues and machinations of their common enemies who would like to create divisions and disputes between the Muslim countries thereby weakening them and slowing down their progress.Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s recent visit to Pakistan was a welcome development as it conveyed Iran’s preference to resolve its difference with Pakistan through diplomacy.It is in Pakistan’s own interest to respond positively to the Iranian initiative and take all possible steps for strengthening bilateral relations and resolving mutual differences amicably.http://nation.com.pk/columns/09-May-2017/strains-in-pakistan-iran-relations

May 9, 2017   No Comments

A grave warning: edit in The Express Tribune, May 9th, 2017.

A grave warning: edit in The Express Tribune, May 9th, 2017.
It is impossible to underestimate the gravity and the import of the warning issued by the head of the Iranian armed forces on the morning of 8th May. It will be recalled that 10 Iranian border guards were killed by militants from the Jaish al Adl group last month. This is the sectarian outfit that has mounted attacks in the past on Iran, alleging it is acting in support of what it sees as a persecuted minority within Iran. They were killed by what are described as ‘long range guns’ though whether this refers to artillery or to high-powered rifles is not made clear. Either way, Iran is clearly not satisfied with the response it has seen and heard from Pakistan since.

The warning is explicit. The state news agency IRNA quoted Major General Mohammed Baqeri as saying that ‘unless Pakistan ‘control(s) the borders, arrest(s) the terrorist and shut(s) down their bases…we will hit their safe havens and cells wherever they are.’ There is no lack of clarity in the statement and it must be assumed that Iran at some future point may strike inside Pakistan with whatever forces, ground or air, that it considers appropriate to neutralise a perceived threat from the Jaish al Adl. Serious as the warning is it is not the first time that tensions have reached this pitch. In 2014, Iran warned that it would send troops to retrieve five border guards kidnapped by Jaish al Adl, but the intervention of a Sunni cleric defused the confrontation. Four guards were subsequently returned but one was killed by Jaish al Adl. At the time Pakistan warned that such a move would be a violation of its sovereignty.

The border area with Iran has long been unstable and home to gun and drug runners as well as extremist groups that move to and fro. Border ‘incidents’ are not uncommon, but in this instance it appears that the patience of Tehran has finally snapped. Assurances in the last week by Pakistani officials that we would deploy additional troops to the border regions appear to have had little impact. We should not doubt Iran. It has the capacity to strike at will, and in all likelihood the intelligence to make strikes that are tightly targeted. Whether it would take the considerable diplomatic risks associated with such a move is a known unknown, and Pakistan is closely engaged with Iran on a range of ongoing projects notably in the energy sector.

Pakistan has the capacity — as well as in all likelihood the same intelligence as to the disposition and assets of the Jaish al Adl — to move decisively against it. The country is also mindful of its relations with partner states such as Saudi Arabia with which there are close fraternal ties. The complexity of these interwoven relationships is increased by the civil war in Yemen that has Riyadh supporting the elected government and the Iranians backing the Houthi rebels via its local proxy forces. Pakistan is in the frame as it has recently agreed to provide leadership to a sketchy coalition of Muslim states which does not include Iran — against terrorism. This is a delicately balanced artifice, and the role that Pakistan potentially has as a broker and arbiter of regional peace and stability is both opportunity and threat. Get it wrong and the consequences are a box of troubles like no other that Pandora released. Get it right and the downstream benefits regionally are considerable.

The fact of the matter is that Pakistan cannot afford to get into an exchange of arms with Iran. In purely military terms Iran is a well-equipped modern state with the capacity to extend any strike beyond its borders. The leadership and the Foreign Office need to pay heed to the warning from Iran, and do so in such a way as to be transparently in tune with Iranian concerns. Now is not the time to dither or prevaricate. https://tribune.com.pk/story/1404649/a-grave-warning/

May 9, 2017   No Comments