QUETTA: Iran has reopened its border crossing with Pakistan at Taftan, a top Pakistani official said on Monday, after Tehran sealed the frontier over the weekend amid unrest in the southeastern town of Zahedan that stranded scores of Pakistanis on the Iranian side.
Violence broke out in the capital of Sistan and Balochistan province during Friday prayers after worshipers at a local mosque called protests over the rape of a 15-year-old girl, allegedly by a local military commander. A provincial intelligence chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Ali Mousavi, was shot during the clashes and pronounced dead at a hospital.
In response to the violence, in which the administration of Sistan and Balochistan has said 19 people were killed, Tehran shut down communication services in Zahedan and its surrounding areas and sealed the border crossing at Taftan in Chagai District in the Pakistani province of Balochistan.
The border between Pakistan and Iran is more than 600 miles and movement between the two countries is common, especially among Pakistanis who travel to Iran on religious pilgrimages. It is also a crucial trade route.
Badal Dashti, an additional deputy commissioner for Chaghi, said Iran had opened the gates on its side of the Taftan crossing yesterday, Monday, and normal movement had been restored.
“Border activities have been restored after Iran opened the gates on its side of the border on October 03,” he said.
A Pakistani Federal Investigation Agency official also told Arab News that the crossing had reopened on Monday. Iran did not formally announce the closing of the border and has not officially commented on its reopening.
With the Taftan crossing sealed for over two days, many Pakistanis were stranded on the Iranian side and reported after their return that while fighting had decreased in Zahedan, it had moved to the city’s outskirts amid a heavy deployment of troops.
Khalil Ahmed, 27, a diesel importer from the Pakistani border town of Nokundi, said he was stuck in Iran for two nights after security forces there sealed the border for all movement. He described the situation in areas surrounding Zahedan as “grim” and said most of residents feared leaving their houses.
“I have seen heavy presence of Iranian forces in Zahedan and its adjacent towns,” Ahmed, who was visiting Rutuk, a small town near Zahedan, and returned to Pakistan on Monday night, told Arab News, describing hearing heavy gunshots during the two nights he spent in Iran.
Naveed Ahmed, 32, a Pakistani who owns a shop in Taftan, said he returned from Zahedan in the afternoon on Monday, after spending six days in the city.
“Business activities are still closed in all of Zahedan city after Friday’s clashes,” he told Arab News. “There were no more clashes in Zahedan city after Friday, but yes, some fighting continued between Iranian forces and separatist groups on the outskirts of Zahedan, because we heard gunshots in the night.”
Iranian officials have not commented as yet on fresh troop deployment in Zahedan or its surrounding areas.
The deaths of security personnel and the provincial IRGC intelligence chief have been a major escalation in anti-government demonstrations that began in Iran in mid-September, triggered by the death of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, in the custody of Iran’s morality police.
The protests continue and have spread to all of Iran’s 31 provinces, with ethnic and religious minorities joining in, despite a violent response from authorities.
The independent Iran Human Rights NGO estimates at least 133 people have been killed by security forces since the beginning of the protests, over three time the number reported by Iranian state media.