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10:10 AM | 2024-02-12 1711
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Facilitating Arbaeen Pilgrimage: Pakistan Proposes Free Visas for Karbala-bound Travelers

The Pakistani side has discussed the possibility of waiving visa fees for its citizens to enter Iraq during the month of Ashura and Arbaeen, reported.

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Aviation retired Air Marshal Farhat Hussain Khan met Iraqi ambassador Hamid Abbas Lafta and discussed the waiver of visa fees for pilgrims to Karbala and Najaf during Ashura and Arbaeen though no formal decision has been made as of now.

According to a press release issued by the Aviation Ministry, both sides exchanged views on bilateral issues of mutual interest while the adviser expressed Pakistan’s commitment to improve the process for approval of extra bilateral flights during Muharram through mutual discussions.

Khan also discussed revising the Air Services Agreement (ASA) between the two countries and expressed intent to grant fifth freedom rights* to Pakistan’s air carriers for operating flights between the two countries.

Air service agreements (ASA) encompass formal accords between nations, which include memoranda of understanding (MoU) and the exchange of official diplomatic notes.

The adviser, in his meeting on Monday, discussed different ways to cement ties between the two countries to spur trade and tourism.

On the other hand, the ambassador of Iraq reiterated the commitment of his government to grant fifth freedom rights to Pakistani airlines.

During the meeting, both sides reaffirmed their firm resolve to further strengthen bilateral ties, particularly in the aviation sector, and to engage more frequently in the future.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis travel to Iraq to visit places of religious importance during Arbaeen. Earlier, last year, Pakistan allowed Iraq to operate additional flights to the country during the Arbaeen event to facilitate the pilgrims. 

At that time, Iraqi Airways was permitted to operate extra flights to facilitate Zaireen [pilgrims] during Arbaeen.

The announcement regarding the Arba'een event is important as it is a significant religious festival observed by millions of Muslims in Iraq. It marks the 40th day after the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), in the Battle of Karbala in 680 AD.

During the Arba'een pilgrimage, millions of devotees, known as Arba'een pilgrims, journey on foot to the holy city of Karbala. The pilgrimage culminates at the Imam Hussein Shrine, the site where Imam Hussein (A.S) and his followers were martyred. It is one of the largest annual gatherings globally, with pilgrims coming from Iraq and across the world.

The festival promotes unity and solidarity among Muslims and serves as a platform for social and humanitarian causes.

*The fifth freedom right means that the aircraft of country A, from a service originating in country A, is allowed to embark passengers and cargo in country B and disembark them in country C.



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