ISLAMABAD - Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi Friday called his Iraqi counterpart Ibrahim Al-Jaafari to discuss the difficulties being faced by Pakistani pilgrims in getting visas for the forthcoming Arbaeen in Iraq.

The foreign minister appreciated the cooperation extended by the Embassy of Iraq, which has already issued over 41,000 visas, said an official statement.

He mentioned that since a large number of applicants still awaiting visas, it will be appreciated if their cases are processed expeditiously.

The Iraqi foreign minister expressed the hope that the bilateral relations between the two countries will prosper and strengthen.

He assured that instructions will be issued to the Mission in Islamabad to expedite the processing of Pakistani pilgrims visas for Arbaeen, said the statement.

The foreign minister of Iraq also extended an invitation to Foreign Minister Qureshi to visit Iraq.

Earlier in the day, Qureshi met Ambassador of Iraq Dr Ali Yassin Mohammed Karim to discuss the problems faced by Pakistani Zaireen (devotees).

Qureshi, a foreign ministry statement said, raised the issues faced by Pakistani Zaireen in obtaining Iraqi visas for Arbaeen. 

“While appreciating the Iraqi government’s efforts in facilitating rising number of Zaireen from Pakistan, he expressed concern over the reports of a large number of Pakistanis still waiting for issuance of Iraqi visas while Arbaeen is only ten days away,” said the statement.

Highlighting the inconvenience and disappointment faced by Ziareen, the Foreign Minister drew attention of the ambassador to the fact that many of them travel by road and will not be able to perform ziarat (pilgrimage) this year due to inordinate delay.

The Foreign Minister flagged the need for urgent streamlining of the visa procedures and placing them on the Embassy’s website along with the list of authorized travel agents, for the convenience of visa applicants. He assured the Iraqi Ambassador of the full support and cooperation of the government of Pakistan in ensuring that all Zaireen return to Pakistan after performing Ziarat.

Ali Yassin Mohammed Karim assured the Foreign Minister of maximum cooperation and support of Embassy of Iraq in processing of all visa requests well within time and in a transparent manner. He also said that the backlog of visa applications for Arbaeen will be cleared within next few days, however, the applicants may ensure submission of complete applications.

It was also decided that a meeting of twelve registered tourist companies will be convened in Iraqi Embassy in the presence of Additional Secretary (Middle East) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to identify, discuss and resolve the visa problems of the zaireen.

SPANISH ENVOY CALLS

ON QURESHI

Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi Friday emphasised the need to augment trade and economic ties and greater people-to-people contacts between Pakistan and Spain.

The foreign minister was talking to Ambassador Carlos Morales of Spain, who paid a farewell call on him at the Foreign Office. The foreign minister appreciated the ambassador’s efforts for promoting Pakistan-Spain bilateral relations during his tenure in Pakistan.

The Spanish ambassador reciprocated his government’s desire to further enhance cooperation between the two countries in all areas of mutual interest. He, in particular, emphasised on greater cooperation in the field of tourism.

The foreign minister wished the ambassador success in his future assignment.