Flights to Iran being considered for Shia pilgrims

Published: September 26, 2011
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Members of the Shi'ite Hazara community march through the streets during a protest against recent violence in Quetta September 25, 2011. Twenty-nine people have been killed in attacks against ethnic minorities in the city in the past week, local media reported. PHOTO: REUTERS

Members of the Shi'ite Hazara community march through the streets during a protest against recent violence in Quetta September 25, 2011. Twenty-nine people have been killed in attacks against ethnic minorities in the city in the past week, local media reported. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: 

Islamabad and Tehran are considering starting airline flights for pilgrims who visit holy shrines in Iran in the wake of the attack on 29 Shia pilgrims in Mastung, Balochistan, officials said.

The move came after Iran reacted to the Mastung incident by shutting down the trade gate at the Pakistan border.

A delegation headed by Qazi Asghar, representative of the Wali-e-Faqih (Religious Guardian) at Hajj and Pilgrimage Affairs department in Iran will meet parliamentarians in Islamabad on Monday. Pakistan’s Religious Affairs Minister Khurshid Shah will brief the delegation on rising security worries for pilgrims in the region. Officials from both sides are hopeful this meeting will pave the way for a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two countries modelled on the one Pakistan and India have for the security of visitors.

Officials at the Ministry of Religious Affairs told The Express Tribune that Pakistan and India signed five MoUs some years back to ensure safety of pilgrims. However, Islamabad and Tehran have no such agreement, they said.

“Airline services will restore the confidence of pilgrims,” said MNA Syed Imran, who is a member of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Religious Affairs, which will brief the Iranian delegation on Monday.

Iranian officials in Islamabad told The Express Tribune that Tehran is deeply concerned by rising ethnic violence on the border areas. The Iranian interior minister is visiting Islamabad this week to chalk out a strategy for greater security cooperation in border areas, a senior official of the Iranian Embassy said.

Meanwhile, President Asif Ali Zardari has also directed Interior Minister Rehman Malik to ensure the security of visitors travelling on routes leading to Iran in Balochistan. He also directed Malik to personally supervise the investigation into the Mastung incident.

Around 0.12 million Pakistani pilgrims visit Iran and Iraq’s holy shrines annually. These pilgrims rarely get official permits from the Foreign Office or the relevant embassies in Pakistan, according to religious affairs ministry officials.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 26th,  2011.

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Reader Comments (7)

  • Taha Ali
    Sep 26, 2011 - 10:12AM

    nice suggestion, best and better way.

    Government and Iran have to start better services for such cause.

    Recommend

  • Sep 26, 2011 - 11:09AM

    The move came after Iran reacted to
    the Mastung incident by shutting down
    the trade gate at the Pakistan border.

    Even here Iran had to take stand for Pakistani pilgrim’s safety. Thanks to Iran for coming up with the brilliant idea, of transportation of pilgrims by Air — Recommend

  • Shah
    Sep 26, 2011 - 11:13AM

    There are already flights available for and from Iran. What is this being done for?
    It is like saying “we cannot protect you so please spend more money”

    Recommend

  • Sultan Mehmood
    Sep 26, 2011 - 11:26AM

    It is a good move to start flights. However, it is no solution to the security problems. Airline tickets will definitely be expensive for most Pakistani Shia pilgrims. People who got killed also knew about the route being risky, still they chose embark upon the journey shows that they might have no other way i’e financially. So, Pakistani government should figure out a way to control such horrendous killings.

    Pakistani people are definitely against such killings, and most Pakistanis Muslims are definitely not against the Shia minority, and proof of which is our Shia President. It might not be good example, but it show people can sow confidence on Shias in Pakistan. It is unfortunate event like countless other incidents in which Sunni masjids and Sunni people get blasted away, and the responsible are definitely and hopefully a handful people. We all together condemn it.

    Recommend

  • Farhan
    Sep 26, 2011 - 12:52PM

    But, air route will be so expensive.

    Another problem apart from security is trade:

    Why Pakistan not give support to baloch living along the Pak-Iran border to do legal trading instead of smuggling. Iran has well developed border gate with Pakistan, but we dont have facilities even for our own people who go for pilgrimage or who do daily trade with Iran. SAD!

    Recommend

  • Sameer
    Sep 26, 2011 - 1:19PM

    So the air travel shall be subsidized by both the governments? Anyway this can be a short term measure if taken in reaction to Mastung massacre – in the long run our brave army must defend its roads.

    Recommend

  • FM
    Sep 26, 2011 - 3:02PM

    i’m not a SHIA, but security to all pilgrims must be provided regardless of the religion/caste/race

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