ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Tuesday noted with serious concern the statement by Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli that Iran would send forces into Pakistan to free five border guards who were kidnapped by the militants on February 6 from the border region about 5kms inside Iranian territory.

Foreign Office Spokesperson Tasnim Aslam, while commenting on this statement, said the government of Pakistan regrets the suggestions of negligence on its part over the incident, especially when Pakistan’s active support against terrorists groups in the past, is well-known and acknowledged by Iran.

The spokesperson further said, "Pakistan has already informed the Iranian authorities that its Frontier Corps teams have intensively combed the entire region, but could not verify the entry or presence of these Iranian border guards in its territory.”

She said it is possible that the miscreants along with the abducted border guards are hiding within the Iranian territory.

The security organisations of both the countries are in regular contact and a senior-level Pak-Iran border meeting is scheduled in Quetta on February 19, at which relevant information would be exchanged.

The spokesperson said, “It shall, however, be emphasised that the Iranian forces have no authority to cross our borders in violation of the international law and we must respect each other’s borders.”

Karzai condemns

former minister’s killing

AFP adds from Kabul: Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday condemned the killing of a former Taliban minister, saying the victim had returned after attending a recent Taliban meeting in Dubai where he had supported peace talks.

Abdur Raqeeb was gunned down in Pakistan’s northwestern city of Peshawar on Monday as he left a religious seminary where he had been teaching.

“He was a supporter of peace and reconciliation and had just returned from Dubai after attending peace talks when he was killed in Peshawar,” a statement issued by Karzai’s office said.

It was the first official confirmation of a meeting of Taliban in the Gulf state to discuss the moribund peace process.

A Taliban office in Qatar that opened last June was meant to lead to peace talks, but it enraged Karzai after it was styled as an embassy for a government-in-exile.

Public efforts at reconciliation have since been frozen. “No Afghan has real security abroad, especially those patriots who want peace and stability in their country,” Karzai said in the statement.

A senior Afghan Taliban leader confirmed Monday that Raqeeb was part of a group in Peshawar which was in favour of making some connection with the Afghan government over possible peace talks.

A senior member of Afghanistan’s government peace council told AFP separately that Aga Jan Motasim, another former minister, was also at the talks in Dubai to discuss joining the Afghan peace process.

He declined to say if any government mediators had joined the talks. Last Thursday the Afghan government released scores of alleged Taliban fighters from Bagram prison, leading to criticism from the United States.

But some analysts say the releases could help start the peace talks with the religious hardliners, who were ousted from power in 2001.  Pakistan is seen as crucial to peace in neighbouring Afghanistan as it was a key backer of the 1996-2001 Taliban regime in Kabul.

Senior leaders of the Afghan Taliban have been targeted and killed in Pakistani cities of Quetta and Peshawar but nobody has ever claimed responsibility. Raqeeb’s body was taken to Afghanistan to be buried in his birthplace in the northeastern province of Takhar.