Iranian President Raisi, Sindh CM discuss bilateral economic opportunities in Karachi meeting

Published April 23, 2024
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah attend a ceremony in the former’s honour at the CM House on Tuesday. — DawnNewsTV
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah attend a ceremony in the former’s honour at the CM House on Tuesday. — DawnNewsTV

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi met Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah on Tuesday during his visit to Karachi and had a detailed discussion on Pakistan-Iran economic opportunities, including issues concerning investment.

Raisi is currently on a three-day visit to Pakistan and had arrived a day ago. His visit is the first of its kind by any head of state after the February 8 general elections.

Raisi earlier landed at Jinnah International Airport’s old terminal where he was received by Sindh Governor Kamran Tessori, Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and provincial ministers.

He later visited Mazar-i-Quaid where he laid a floral wreath and offered prayers with provincial officials and his delegation in tow.

Raisi’s subsequent visit was to the Sindh Chief Minister’s House.

A ceremony was held in which an honourary doctorate was awarded to the Iranian president by Governor Tessori.

A statement issued by CM Shah’s spokesperson Abdul Rasheed Channa said the Iranian president and provincial chief held a meeting discussing investment issues and bilateral economic opportunities.

Provincial ministers also attended the meeting. CM Shah said the Sindh government had always encouraged private enterprise and there were “vast investment opportunities” in various sectors across the province.

A ceremony was later held in honour of the Iranian president who also addressed it and “expressed his delight” at being hosted in Sindh.

Addressing the ceremony, CM Shah said: “It is a matter of pride and honour for me that today I am welcoming the president of a brotherly country, a long-time friend, sympathiser and benefactor of Pakistan,” adding that Pak-Iran relations spanned “centuries”.

“The religious, academic, cultural and economic ties between us are strong and deepening with time. Pakistan and Iran have supported each other wholeheartedly,” he said.

CM Shah said the two countries were passing through an “important period in history” where brotherhood, unity and mutual support were “essential”.

“We are facing various problems in which terrorism, illegal trade, climate change and its negative effects, increasing atrocities in Palestine and Kashmir are the top.

“Genocide of Muslims in Palestine and Kashmir is a matter of concern. In the eyes of Pakistan, a peaceful solution to the problems of Palestine and Kashmir is the most important need of the hour,” the chief minister said.

He added that Muslims should unite and support Palestinians in this difficult time.

Shah further said that Pakistan’s “firm and principled stand” was that there should be an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and Palestinians should be given their rights while the problem of Kashmiris must be solved in the light of UN resolutions.

Lahore visit

Earlier today, Raisi and his delegation were received by Punjab CM Maryam Nawaz at the Allama Iqbal International Airport on the second day of his official visit.

According to PTV News, Punjab Chief Secretary Zahid Akthar Zaman, Inspector General of Police Dr Usman Anwar and Iranian consul general in Lahore Mehran Movahhedfar were among those receiving him.

Senior provincial minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, Senator Pervaiz Rasheed and provincial ministers Uzma Bukhari, Mujtuba Shujaur Rehman, Khawaja Sulaiman Rafiq, Bilal Yasin, and Chaudhry Shafay Hussain were also present on the occasion.

The Iranian president then paid a visit to Allama Iqbal’s mausoleum, where he laid a floral wreath and offered fateha.

Speaking on the occasion, Raisi said he did not “feel like a stranger at all”, adding that there were “special emotions and connection” with Pakistani people that kept the two nations connected.

“I wanted that a public rally be held so I could address the public but due to some reasons, the conditionalities were such that it could not be made possible,” he said.

“On behalf of the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, I say my greetings to the people of Pakistan and Lahore,” Raisi said, appreciating the “revolutionary spirit” present in the people here.

The Iranian president highlighted that Allama Iqbal was an extremely important personality for Iran as he was a very inspirational person. He also praised the Pakistani people and government for the “stance taken with us (Iran) in a strong manner against Zionist forces”.

According to Radio Pakistan, Maulana Abdul Khabeer Azad, the khateeb of Badshahi Mosque, offered special prayers for the enhancement of Pak-Iran relations and for the Palestinians in Gaza.

Raisi penned his admiration for Allama Iqbal’s literary legacy in the visitors’ book, the report said, adding that he was also briefed on the ongoing restoration efforts at Lahore’s historical sites, particularly within the Old Walled City.

Later, Raisi met Punjab Governor Balighur Rehman at the Governor House where they discussed matters of mutual interest, Radio Pakistan reported.

Governor Rehman also hosted a luncheon in honour of the president and his delegation, the report said.

The Iranian president later held a meeting with CM Maryam where the two reaffirmed their commitment to enhancing cultural exchanges and fostering people-to-people contacts, the Foreign Office said.

CM Maryam explained measures taken in the province for socio-economic development and expressed a desire for close engagement with Iranian cities and provinces for “mutual benefit and prosperity”.

Raisi will next head to Karachi, where he will meet with the provincial leadership there. He would also be awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Karachi, Radio Pakistan stated.

The Punjab government and Sindh governments have announced local holidays today (Tuesday) in the Lahore district and Karachi division, respectively, to “avoid the consequent inconvenience to the general public” ahead of the visit of foreign dignitaries, including Raisi. The Sindh government has also imposed a complete ban on drones in the Karachi division from April 22 to April 28.

In a post on X in the early hours of Tuesday, Raisi said: “Due to the commonality between Iran and Pakistan, there is a significant scope for expansion and promotion of relations between the two countries.”

He conveyed his greetings to the people of Pakistan, who he said “always defended Islam, Islamic values, the oppressed Palestinians and the just and fair”.

High-level meetings on 1st day

A day ago, Raisi had spent a busy day in Islamabad, where the two sides committed to increasing the trade volume to $10 billion over the next five years.

After his arrival in the capital, he had met with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and later addressed a joint press conference, vowing to strengthen relations between both countries at “high levels”.

Later, Raisi also met with President Asif Ali Zardari where they agreed to reinforce existing ties. In his meeting with Chief of Army Staff General Asim Munir, the Iranian president discussed regional stability and border security.

Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar had called on Raisi as well while Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi and his Iranian counterpart Dr Ahmad Vahidi agreed on both two countries banning terrorist organisations in their respective countries.

Separately, the neighbours signed eight agreements and Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) for cooperation in various fields. PM Shehbaz and Raisi also inaugurated the newly-constructed portion of Islamabad’s 11th Avenue after renaming it as Iran Avenue.

Significance of visit

Raisi’s visit to Pakistan had been in doubt as Middle East tensions rose after Iran launched an unprecedented missile and drone attack on Israel more than a week ago in retaliation for an airstrike on the Iranian consular building in Damascus earlier this month. Then, on Friday, central Iran received what was presumed to be an Israeli attack.

Tehran has played down the apparent Israeli attack and indicated it had no plans for retaliation, a response that appeared gauged towards keeping the conflict in Gaza from expan­ding to a regionwide conflict.

Pakistan has called on all parties in the Middle East to “exercise utmost restraint and move towards de-escalation”.

Raisi’s visit is also significant as Pakistan and Iran seek to mend ties after tit-for-tat missile strikes in January. The cross-border strikes stoked regional tensions already inflamed by Israel’s military offensive in Gaza.

Tehran carried out the strikes against an anti-Iran group in Pakistan the same week it targeted Iraq and Syria. Pakistan responded with a raid on “militant targets” in Sistan-Balochistan province. Both countries have accused each other of sheltering militants in the past.

Pakistan is also counting on a joint gas project with Iran to solve a long-running power crisis that has sapped its economic growth.

A $7.5 billion Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline intended to feed Pakistani power plants was inaugurated with great fanfare in March 2013. However, the project immediately stagnated following international sanctions on Iran.

Tehran has built its own section of the 1,800-kilometre pipeline, which should eventually link its South Pars gas fields to Nawabshah.

In February, the outgoing caretaker government in Pakistan approved the construction of an 80km section of the pipeline, primarily to avoid the payment of billions of dollars in penalties to Iran due to years of delays.

Washington has warned that Pakistan could face US sanctions, saying it does not support the pipeline going forward.

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