PM Shehbaz Sharif calls on Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.—Courtesy PM Office
PM Shehbaz Sharif calls on Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.—Courtesy PM Office

• Iranian president to be laid to rest today after last rites at Imam Reza shrine in Mashhad
• In Tehran, PM Shehbaz expresses resolve to boost Pak-Iran ties

TEHRAN/ISLAM­ABAD: As a sea of mourners gathered around Tehran University to attend the funeral of Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi, who perished in a helicopter crash earlier this week, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif also arrived in the Iranian capital to attend the “memorial ceremony” and express condolences on behalf of the Pakistani people.

The Iranian president’s helicopter, carrying his foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and others, crashed into a mountain in the East Azerbaijan province of the country May 19.

Funeral ceremonies began on Tuesday with processions through Tabriz and Qom, drawing tens of thousands of mourners.

On Wednesday, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei led prayers for the late president as massive crowds thronged the capital for his funeral procession.

Flanked by top officials, Khamenei offered prayers over the coffins of the eight dead, as a sea of mourners filled the open space around Tehran University, before the funeral procession moved on to the Enghelab and Azadi squares.

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.

Iran’s state television said the late president, who had been widely seen as Khamenei’s most likely successor, 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,” Mr Khamenei told visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani.

Khamenei, who wields ultimate authority in Iran, has declared five days of national mourning and assigned vice president Mohammad Mokhber, 68, as caretaker president until a June 28 election for the successor. Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri, who was Amir-Abdollahian’s deputy, has been named acting foreign minister.

PM Shehbaz in Tehran

As a part of the memorial ceremony, PM Shehbaz arrived at the hall where the body of the late president was placed. He paid tribute to President Raisi’s contributions towards the Pak-Iran ties. Lauding the contributions of the late Iranian president, PM Shehbaz said late president Raisi was a great friend of Pakistan and his visit to Pakistan in April “would always be remembered”.

PM Shehbaz also met Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei and expressed condolences on the tragic death of the late president and his companions.

The PM expressed solidarity with the Iranian people at a critical juncture in history and reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to further strengthening the bonds of friendship with the government and people of Iran. Ayatollah Khamenei said Iran appreciated the sentiments of the government and people of Pakistan. The PM also invited the supreme leader to visit Pakistan.

PM Shehbaz also expressed condolences to Iran’s acting president Dr Mohammad Mokhber. He also met Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Turkey’s Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan at the ceremony.

Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2024

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