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Pakistani Pilgrims May Receive Complimentary Visas For Iraq

Pakistani Pilgrims May Receive Complimentary Visas For Iraq

The possibility of waiving visa fees for Pakistani citizens entering Iraq during the month of Ashura and Arbaeen has been discussed by the Pakistani side. Adviser to the Prime Minister on Aviation, retired Air Marshal Farhat Hussain Khan, held a meeting with Iraqi Ambassador Hamid Abbas Lafta to explore this proposal. While no formal decision has been made, both sides engaged in discussions on bilateral issues of mutual interest.

A press release from the Aviation Ministry stated that the adviser expressed Pakistan’s commitment to enhancing the approval process for extra bilateral flights during Muharram through mutual discussions. Khan also discussed the revision of the Air Services Agreement (ASA) between the two countries and expressed an intent to grant fifth freedom rights to Pakistan’s air carriers for operating flights between the two nations.

Read more: Pakistan and Iraq Sign Double Taxation Elimination Convention

Air service agreements (ASAs) involve formal agreements between countries, including memoranda of understanding (MoUs) and the exchange of official diplomatic notes. The adviser’s meeting aimed to explore various avenues to strengthen ties between the two countries, with a focus on boosting trade and tourism.

During the meeting, the Iraqi ambassador reaffirmed his government’s commitment to grant fifth freedom rights to Pakistani airlines. Both sides emphasized their strong resolve to further strengthen bilateral ties, particularly in the aviation sector, and expressed a desire for more frequent engagement in the future.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis travel to Iraq to visit religiously significant places, particularly during Arbaeen. Last year, Pakistan allowed Iraq to operate additional flights during the Arbaeen event to facilitate pilgrims. Iraqi Airways was permitted to operate extra flights to assist pilgrims during this religious observance.

The announcement regarding the discussion on visa fee waivers is significant, especially considering the upcoming Arbaeen event. Arbaeen is a major religious festival observed by millions of Muslims in Iraq, marking the 40th day after the martyrdom of Imam Hussein. During this pilgrimage, millions of devotees journey on foot to the holy city of Karbala, culminating at the Imam Hussein Shrine. It is one of the largest annual gatherings globally, promoting unity and solidarity among Muslims and addressing social and humanitarian causes.

The fifth freedom right, as discussed in the meeting, allows an aircraft from one country to embark passengers and cargo in another country and disembark them in a third country during a service originating in the first country.