Why Is Iran Celebrating Pakistan’s I-Day With Such A Frevour?

TEHRAN —  Pakistan-Iran relations are in upward swing and its latest manifestaion is Iran’s public display of celebrations on Pakistan’s 72nd Independence Day.

As Pakistan celebrated its Independence Day on Tuesday, billboards and banners could be seen in major Iranian cities including capital Tehran facilitating Pakistan on the eve of its Independence Day.

Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported, Iran had put up billboards with Persian texts depicting the historic landmarks of Pakistan. The billboards were put up on highways and overbridges across Tehran. Screens on metros in Mashhad and Tehran also will be showing friendly messages for next ten days, according to Radio Pakistan.

Earlier Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei also congratulated Pakistani nation on the occasion of Independence Day.

President Hassan Rouhani stated earlier that Iran and Pakistan share a close bond as the two countries have the same religious and cultural values. Even a video clip of Imran Khan, the prime minister in waiting, now making rounds on social mediashows him praising Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Imam Khomeini.

Khan has been invited to Iran after he takes oath as the new Prime Minister of Pakistan. Imran will take oath on August 18th as the new leader of Pakistan after emerging as the face of change in the Pakistan general elections. 

Khan will be traveling to Tehran to attend the Asia Cooperation Dialogue summit, which is scheduled to be held there in October.

Indications are the Imran Khanled government will reorient Islamabad’s policy towards the US.

In a rebuff to President Donald Trump, Imran Khan said though he wished relations with the US to be mutually beneficial, they could not be one-sided. 

“The new Pakistani government will reconsider its relations with the US. Ties with the country should be based on common interests and mutual respect,” Imran Khan said in an interview with Fars News Agency of Iran.

Military ties

Significantly both Iran and and Pakistan have off late resumed military ties.

In November 2017 General Bajwa, Pakistan’s army chief, made a three-day official visit to Tehran, the first trip of its kind for decades. And in July 2018 his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Bagheri, visited Pakistan, where officials discussed the possibility of co-producing defense equipment. Furthermore, Pakistan recently hosted a meeting of spy chiefs from Iran, Russia and China to address the threat posed by Islamic State group in Afghanistan. Pakistan and Iran reportedly back the Taliban and both want a negotiated settlement of the US-led war there.

“Pakistan’s pivot to Iran must have raised eyebrows in Gulf capitals”, wrote Rupert Stone, in The Diplomat. Indeed, relations between Pakistan and the GCC have been rocky in recent years.

In 2015 Pakistan’s parliament voted against supplying troops to fight in the Saudi-led war in Yemen. This turned out to be a wise move, given the quagmire that has ensued there, but Islamabad’s Gulf allies felt betrayed. Then, in 2016, Pakistan signed a gas deal with Qatar and remained neutral when Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other nations boycotted Doha last summer, apparently because of Qatar’s ties to Iran.

Imran Khan, has been outspoken in his support for Iran. His Tehreek-e-Insaf party backed the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the permanent five members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany.

Khan was strongly critical of U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban preventing the citizens of Iran and other Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, and congratulated Tehran for retaliating against its restrictions.

In a 2017 interview, Khan called for better relations with Iran and reiterated that view in his victory speech following last week’s elections in Pakistan.

Gas Pipeline Project

Speaking to Fars, Imran Khan said Islamabad will work to boost trade with Tehran, and it will work to implement a gas pipeline contract with Tehran.

“Unfortunately, the peoples party government could not resist pressures imposed by the US to prevent construction of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, but new government will do its best to import energy from Iran,” he said.

In 1990s, Iran, Pakistan and India agreed to build a pipeline transferring Iran’s gas. Dubbed the “peace pipeline”, the plan was initially designed to pass through Pakistan into India but New Delhi quit the project in 2009.

Iran says it has completed work on its side of the pipeline up to the border of Pakistan and is ready to deliver the gas but Islamabad has yet to start construction of the line on its territory.

There are speculations that Pakistan has been under pressure to follow other options, including a proposed pipeline from Turkmenistan, nicknamed TAPI.

Pointing to TAPI pipeline, Imran Khan said it won’t be enough to fulfill Pakistan’s demand.

“This pipeline is not comparable to Iran pipeline and even if this project is implemented, Islamabad will need to supply energy from Iran,” he said.

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