Iraqi Foreign Minister Dr Fuad Hussein on Wednesday assured Pakistan of introducing a new visa policy for Pakistani pilgrims aimed at facilitating their visits to the holy sites in Iraq.
In a joint press stakeout along with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the visiting Iraqi foreign minister said that every possible facilitation would be extended to Pakistanis visiting holy places in Karbala and Najaf.
The two foreign ministers, who earlier led delegation-level talks, focused on bilateral and regional consultations on trade, energy, religious tourism, defence cooperation, human resource, employment and consular matters.
FM Dr Hussein said he would discuss with the Iraqi interior minister to “make it easier for Pakistani pilgrims visiting Iraq”, adding that promoting people-to-people level contacts was in the interest of both the countries.
FM Qureshi mentioned that the issue of smooth issuance of visas for Pakistani pilgrims to Iraq, especially during Muharram, was taken up.
On the personal interest of Prime Minister Imran Khan, he said, a pilgrims management policy was under consideration. Also, plans are underway to set up a Pakistan House at Karbala and a medical centre to facilitate the pilgrims.
Dr Hussein urged Pakistan and India to resolve the issue of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) through negotiations.
“We hope that both the countries will start negotiations to resolve the lingering issue [of Kashmir],” he said.
He observed that Iraq had “excellent” relations with both Pakistan and India, believing that dialogue was the peaceful way to resolve the issue.
Expressing concern over the worsening situation in Afghanistan, the Iraqi FM stressed the need for negotiations among various political groups.
“For Iraq, peace in Afghanistan is important as the conflict could spill over to other regional countries,” he said.
He noted Pakistan’s “important role” played towards the continuation of the Afghan peace process.
Qureshi said Pakistan had been consistently advocating the peace process, be it at the Doha talks, the Heart of Asia Istanbul process or the discussion of Troika.
Pakistan never supported any “apolitical” group in Afghanistan, he added.
On the recent social media trend “#SanctionPakistan”, Qureshi said it was a “spot controlled trend and a part of the smear campaign to divert attention from the internal challenges Afghanistan was going through”.
“Despite criticism, Pakistan will continue to facilitate the Afghan process,” he said, adding that details revealed it was an “orchestrated and not a natural social media trend”.
Qureshi said Pakistan was clear in its approach towards Afghanistan and “would not be apologetic”.
“We have done whatever we could and will continue to do. It is in sync with the agenda of our government,” he said.
Dr Hussein said tension among the regional countries directly affected Iraq and that his government was planning to hold a meeting of regional leaders this month.
He said the Iraqi prime minister had accepted the invitation of the Government of Pakistan to visit the country in near future.
Pakistan and Iraq also inked MoU on holding bilateral political consultations.
The foreign ministers of both countries signed the document at a ceremony held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Dr Hussain planted a sapling at the lawns of the ministry
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