Pakistan, Iran leaders to open border markets at first meeting in 10 years


Islamabad (Reuters) Pakistani and Iranian leaders opened their first border market on Thursday following improved relations between Pakistan and Iran, officials said.

Located in the remote village of Pasin in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Balochistan, the market is the first of six built along the Pakistan-Iran border under an agreement signed by the two sides in 2012. 

Pakistani Prime Minister Shahabaz Sharif and Iranian President Ebrahim Raishi also opened transmission lines that will bring Iranian power to some remote parts of Pakistan.

In a televised session, Mr. Sharif sat next to Mr. Raisi and promised Pakistan would do everything in its power to improve security along the Iranian border. He added that the two countries had agreed to strengthen trade and economic ties and invited Raisi to visit Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. Relations between Iran and Pakistan remain disputed over cross-border attacks by Pakistani militants along their common border.

A small separatist group is behind a long-running rebellion demanding Balochistan independence from the central government in Islamabad. Anti-Iran armed groups in Pakistan have also targeted the Iranian border in recent years, increasing tensions between the two countries.

Such a visit would be the first since 2013, when the two countries signed an agreement allowing Pakistan to import Iranian gas despite resistance from the United States. “Western countries have no right to block the project,” the Iranian government said at the time. The deal failed to implement because of US sanctions against Iran. Pakistan has close ties with the Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia, but has tried to maintain ties with Shiite-majority Iran. Longtime rivals Riyadh and Tehran restored ties earlier this year under a China-brokered deal.