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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday carried out a series of highly coordinated and specifically targeted precision military strikes against terrorist hideouts in Sistan-Balochistan province of Iran in retaliation to Tehran’s violation of its airspace on Tuesday.

Both, the Foreign Office and the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) confirmed the strikes inside Iran, targeting hideouts used by terrorist organisations, including Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF), in an intelligence-based operation, codenamed “Marg Bar Sarmachar”.

Iran’s official news agency, IRNA reported that nine non-Iranian nationals were killed in the early morning strikes that included two men, three women, and four children.

“This morning Pakistan undertook a series of highly coordinated and specifically targeted precision military strikes against terrorist hideouts in Sistan-o-Baluchistan province of Iran. A number of terrorists were killed during the intelligence-based operation,” Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said while confirming the strikes.

She added that over the last several years, in our engagements with Iran, Pakistan has consistently shared its serious concerns about the safe havens and sanctuaries enjoyed by Pakistani-origin terrorists calling themselves “Sarmachars” on the ungoverned spaces inside Iran.

“Pakistan also shared multiple dossiers with concrete evidence of the presence and activities of these terrorists. However, because of lack of action on our serious concerns, these so-called Sarmachars continued to operate against Pakistan with impunity,” she said.

She added that the action was taken in light of credible intelligence of impending large scale terrorist activities against Pakistan by these terrorists.

“This action is a manifestation of Pakistan’s unflinching resolve to protect and defend its national security against all threats. The successful execution of this highly complex operation is also a testimony to the professionalism of the Armed Forces of Pakistan,” she said.

She added that Pakistan will continue to take all necessary steps to preserve the safety and security of its people which is sacrosanct, inviolable, and sacred.

However, the spokesperson added that Pakistan fully respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Islamic Republic of Iran. “The sole objective of today’s act was in pursuit of Pakistan’s own security and national interest which is paramount and cannot be compromised,” she further stated.

As a responsible member of the international community, she added that Pakistan upholds the principles and purposes of the UN Charter including territorial integrity and sovereignty of member states.

“Guided by these principles, and in exercise of our legitimate rights within international law, Pakistan will never allow its sovereignty and territorial integrity to be challenged, under any pretext or circumstances,” Baloch said.

She said that Iran is a brotherly country and the people of Pakistan have great respect and affection for the people of Iran. “We have always emphasized dialogue and cooperation in confronting common challenges including the menace of terrorism and will continue to endeavour to find joint solutions,” she said.

Sharing details of the operation “Marg Bar Sarmachar”, the ISPR said that effective strikes were carried out against hideouts inside Iran used by terrorists responsible for recent attacks in Pakistan.

“The precision strikes were carried out using killer drones, rockets, loitering munitions and stand-off weapons. Maximum care was taken to avoid collateral damage,” it added.

The targeted hideouts were being used by notorious terrorists including Dosta alias Chairman, Bajjar alias Soghat, Sahil alias Shafaq, Asghar alias Basham, and Wazir alias Wazi, among others of the BLA and BLF.

“Pakistan Armed Forces remain in a perpetual state of readiness to ensure safety of Pakistan citizens against acts of terrorism. Our resolve to ensure that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Pakistan is respected and safeguarded against any misadventure, remains unwavering. We reaffirm our determination to defeat all enemies of Pakistan with the support of the people of Pakistan,” the ISPR expressed the resolve.

Going forward, it added that dialogue and cooperation is deemed prudent in resolving bilateral issues between the two neighbouring brotherly countries. Later, speaking at her weekly media briefing in the day, the spokesperson Baloch said Pakistan has no interest in escalating the situation and hoped that “our adversaries understand this”.

The spokesperson said caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar ul Haq Kakar, who is in Davos to attend the annual meeting of World Economic Forum, has decided to cut short his visit in view of ongoing developments.

Caretaker Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani who is in Kampala, Uganda, to participate in the 19th Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Third South Summit of the Group of 77 & China, has also cut short his visit in light of the recent developments, she added.

Responding to a question, Baloch said that Pakistan desires to have peaceful relations with all countries in the region, including Iran. “Pakistan will continue to engage with Iran to ensure that the peace prevails and the two countries make concerted and coordinated efforts to combat the threat of terrorism,” she said.

“Iran is a brotherly country and the people of Pakistan have great respect and affection for the Iranian people. We have always emphasized dialogue and cooperation in confronting common challenges including the menace of terrorism and will continue its endeavour to find joint solutions,” she further stated.

She said that the strikes were neither against the state of Iran, its institutions nor its people, but against the terrorists involved in several incidents of terrorism in Pakistan.

Baloch further stated that Pakistan’s security and sovereignty is sacrosanct, inviolable, and sacred, adding that Pakistan remains ready and willing to protect itself.

She strongly rejected that any information was shared with Pakistan prior to the Iranian act two nights ago. Alluding to the upward trajectory witnessed in bilateral relations between Pakistan and Iran last year, she said that the Iranian action, therefore, was surprising for Pakistan.

“We believe there are channels of communications where all aspects can be shared between the two countries,” she said. She also hoped that Iran would not repeat such acts as they only undermine the trust and confidence between the neighbourly countries.

Commenting on the statements by the Indian External Affairs Ministry on the development, the spokesperson said: “I am sure that they [India] will understand the response Pakistan has given in its self defence, today.”

The spokesperson also expressed her inability to confirm any third-party mediation including by China between Pakistan and Iran, saying that Islamabad and Tehran have a number of channels of communications. “I am not aware of any third party stepping forward [for mediation]. Pakistan and Iran have a number of channels of communications in place,” she added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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