ISLAMABAD Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan began his first official visit to Iranon Sunday for talks set to focus on strengthening ties and countering terrorism, state media reported.
Khan began his two-day visit with a stop in the northeastern holy city of Mashhad, Iran’s second largest and home to the revered shrine of Imam Ali Reza, eighth ShiaImam.
This is Prime Minister Imran’s maiden visit to the neighbouring country.
Prime Minister Imran was initially scheduled to visit Iran in January, but the visit was postponed at the eleventh hour because of unexplained reasons.
Relations between Iran and Pakistan have had a bad patch due to security issues along the border.
Ali Reza Razm Hussaini, the governor general of Khorasan-e-Razavi province, received the prime minister upon arrival at the Shahid Hasheminejad International Airport.
The premier exchanged views with Governor Hussaini and Pakistani officials including ambassador to Iran Riffat Masood were also present.
Prime Minister Imran drove to the shrine of Hazrat Imam Ali Raza (AS) and offered prayers there before leaving for the capital city.
During the visit, the prime minister will hold meeting with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei, besides holding detailed consultations with President Rouhani.
Imran Khan will also meet members of the Iranian and Pakistani business community in Iran.
The prime minister is accompanied by Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari, Minister for Maritime Affairs Syed Ali Haider Zaidi, Adviser to premier on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood, PM’s special assistants Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari, Zafarullah Mirza and Nadeem Baber.
The visit comes a day after Islamabad lodged a strong protest with Tehran over the country’s inaction against the group allegedly responsible for the attack on Makran Coastal Highway which killed at least 14 people.
The state-run IRNA news agency said Khan’s trip was expected to help “develop ties between the two countries, especially those related to regional cooperation in fighting terrorism and safeguarding borders”.
Iran and Pakistan share around 900 kilometre long border that runs nears the volatile southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan which has witnessed over the years numerous attacks on Iran’s security forces.
In March, Rouhani demanded Pakistan act “decisively against anti-Iranian terrorists”, following a February attack that killed 27 members of the elite Revolutionary Guards in Sistan-Baluchistan.
Balochistan, which borders Afghanistan and Iran, is Pakistan’s poorest province and the largest by landmass, with Islamist as well as ethnic Baloch separatists active there.
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