PM Shehbaz meets Ayatollah Khamenei after Tehran funeral for Raisi

Published May 22, 2024
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif meets Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran, Iran on Wednesday. — PTV
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif meets Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran, Iran on Wednesday. — PTV
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei performs prayer at a funeral for victims of helicopter crash that killed Iran’s president Ebrahim Raisi, foreign minister Hossein Abdollahian and others, in Tehran, Iran, May 22.  — Reuters
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei performs prayer at a funeral for victims of helicopter crash that killed Iran’s president Ebrahim Raisi, foreign minister Hossein Abdollahian and others, in Tehran, Iran, May 22. — Reuters
Mourners attend the funeral of Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi, in Tehran, on May 22. — AFP
Mourners attend the funeral of Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi, in Tehran, on May 22. — AFP

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday met Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and expressed condolences on the death of late president Ebrahim Raisi and his entourage in a helicopter crash.

Raisi’s helicopter crashed on Sunday on a fog-shrouded mountainside in northern Iran on the way to the city of Tabriz after the group attended the inauguration of a dam project on the border with Azerbaijan.

A huge search and rescue operation was launched, involving help from Turkey, Russia and the European Union. State television announced Raisi’s death early on Monday.

The Iranian military said today that domestically produced drones had played the key role in locating the crash site.

Raisi, who was widely expected to succeed Khamenei as supreme leader, was 63.

In his meeting with Khamenei after the funeral processions, PM Shehbaz underlined that Raisi was a “visionary leader who manifested steadfast dedication to serving his country and people”.

Recalling the late president’s visit to Pakistan last month, the prime minister highlighted his commendable role in further strengthening Pakistan-Iran bilateral relations, the PM Office said in a press release.

PM Shehbaz expressed solidarity with “Iranian brethren and sisters at the critical juncture in history and reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to further strengthening the bonds of friendship and brotherhood with the government and the people of brotherly Iran”.

He expressed the resolve to continue Raisi’s vision for strengthening the bilateral relationship and trade between the two countries.

The premier said that Raisi’s contributions to the “unity of the Muslim world as well as for the besieged people of Gaza will be etched in history”.

The prime minister was accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar, Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi, Commerce Minister Jam Kamal Khan and Information Minister Attaullah Tarar.

Khamenei said Iran appreciated the sentiments of the government and the people of Pakistan in this critical time and expressed gratitude to them.

He reiterated that Iran accorded importance to its ties with Pakistan and would continue the vision of the late president in that regard.

The prime minister invited the Iranian supreme leader to visit Pakistan.

PM Shehbaz earlier attended the memorial ceremony of the late Iranian president and the others martyred in the crash, including late foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian.

The prime minister arrived at the hall where the body of the late president was placed, offered prayers and paid tribute to Raisi’s contributions towards the progress and prosperity of the Iranian nation, promotion of Pak-Iran bilateral ties, and efforts for the region.

PM Shehbaz also expressed condolences on behalf of the people and government of Pakistan to acting President Dr Mohammad Mokhber.

The prime minister said that the government and the people of Pakistan received the news of the crash with “huge shock and grief”.

“They shared the grief and sorrow of the bereaved families and the people of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and offered their sincere condolences,” he added.

He further expressed sympathies with the bereaved families and the Iranian nation, adding that the entire Pakistani nation stood with the “brotherly country of Iran in the difficult moments”.

Lauding the contributions of the late Iranian president, the prime minister said Raisi was a “great friend” of Pakistan, adding that the memorable time he spent among the people of Pakistan during his April visit would always be remembered.

He also conveyed good wishes to the Iranian vice president on assuming the office.

Earlier, upon arrival at the airport, Iranian Minister for Road and Urban Development Mehrdad Bazrpash and Ambassador of Pakistan in Tehran Mudassir Tipu received the prime minister.

Big crowds in Tehran for president’s funeral

Khamenei led prayers for Raisi as huge crowds thronged the capital Tehran for his funeral procession.

Flanked by top officials, Khamenei said prayers over the coffins of the eight dead.

A sea of mourners filled the open space around Tehran university, where the prayers were held before the funeral procession moved on to Enghelab and Azadi squares.

State television said Raisi, who had been widely seen as Khamenei’s most likely successor as supreme leader, had received a “millionfold farewell” from the people of Tehran.

“We have lost a prominent personality. He was a very good brother. He was an efficient, competent, sincere, and serious official,” Khamenei told visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani.

The leader of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, joined the procession, as did the deputy leader of Hezbollah, Naim Qassem.

“I say once again … we are sure that the Islamic Republic of Iran will continue its support for the Palestinian people,” Haniyeh told the crowd to chants of “Death to Israel”.

Foreign guests

President Mokhber later received heads and representatives of countries in the Middle East, North Africa, Asia and Europe.

Tunisian President Kais Saied and Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani attended an afternoon ceremony in which around 60 countries took part, said state news agency IRNA.

Egypt’s top diplomat, Sameh Shoukry, was also at the ceremony. He was the first Egyptian foreign minister to visit Tehran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Member countries of the European Union were among the absentees of the ceremony while some non-member countries, including Belarus and Serbia had their representatives.

In the capital, huge banners went up hailing the late president as “the martyr of service”, while others bade “farewell to the servant of the disadvantaged”.

Tehran residents received phone messages urging them to join the funeral procession.

“I was sad, I came to calm my heart and calm the heart of the supreme leader,” said one mourner who gave her name only as Maryam and said she had travelled from Varamin, south of Tehran, to pay her last respects.

Burial in Mashhad

Funeral ceremonies for Raisi and his entourage began on Tuesday with processions through Tabriz and the Shia clerical centre of Qom drawing tens of thousands of black-clad mourners.

From Tehran, the bodies will be taken to Iran’s second city of Mashhad, Raisi’s hometown in the northeast, where he will be buried on Thursday evening after funeral rites at the Imam Reza shrine.

Khamenei, who wields ultimate authority in Iran, has declared five days of national mourning and assigned Mokhber, 68, as caretaker president until a June 28 election for Raisi’s successor.

Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri, who was Amir-Abdollahian’s deputy, was named acting foreign minister.

The country’s armed forces chief Mohammad Bagheri has ordered an investigation into the cause of the helicopter crash.

Raisi was elected president in 2021, succeeding the moderate Hassan Rouhani at a time when the economy was battered by US sanctions imposed over Iran’s nuclear activities.

The ultra-conservative’s time in office saw mass protests, a deepening economic crisis and unprecedented armed exchanges with arch-enemy Israel.

After his death, Russia and China sent their condolences, as did Nato, while the UN Security Council observed a minute’s silence.

Messages of condolence also flooded in from Iran’s allies around the region, including the Syrian government as well as Hamas and Hezbollah.

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