Apr 19, 2020, 4:31 PM
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News Code: 83756863
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7,000 Pakistani pilgrims have returned from Iran over past two months

Islamabad, April 19, IRNA -- Spokesperson of Pakistan's foreign ministry praised Iran's cooperation to help return of Pakistani pilgrims to their homes, said that nearly 7,000 pilgrims had returned to the country in the past two months.

Aisha Farooqui told Pakistan English daily ‘Dawn’ that since the outbreak of the coronavirus 6,800 Pakistani pilgrims came back through the Taftan border between Feb 28 and April 15.

Most of these returns were facilitated by the Pakistani embassy in Iran and its consulates in Mashhad and Zahedan.

“The Iranian government appreciates these efforts by our government just as we appreciate their cooperation in facilitating return of our nationals through Taftan,” she said.

There was a huge influx of returnees in the first week of March, putting enormous strain on Pakistan government’s resources, which could not cope with pressure.

The government had refused to allow Pakistani students to return from Wuhan, when the disease started spreading there in January. Questions were then asked why Pakistanis returning from Iran were allowed back.

The spokesperson explained that it happened because “it was an unprecedented situation that all countries were battling and for which no one was really prepared in terms of scale and intensity. There had been a great desire of our nationals to return”.

Ms Farooqui said that over the past few weeks, the Pakistan government’s priority had been the return of the pilgrims through coordination with Iranian authorities. She, at the same time, noted the ongoing cooperation between Pakistan and Iran. “

As a brotherly and a neighborly country, it is only natural for Pakistan and Iran to exchange views and practices that can best counter the huge challenge posed by Covid 19 pandemic,” she maintained.

There are still some 300 pilgrims remaining in Iran, who are waiting for repatriation flight as they are not ready to travel by road.

These pilgrims have been provided hotels there by the embassy. Additionally, some 200 Pakistani students, who had been studying in Iranian universities, are also awaiting return because of the extended annual spring break.

The spokesperson recalled Pakistan’s call for lifting of sanctions on Iran so that it could meet its critical requirements through its own resources.

“The challenges faced by Iranian people due to continued bilateral sanctions exacerbated their situation related to battling coronavirus.

Therefore, PM Imran Khan had appealed for lifting of the US unilateral sanctions on Iran. As a consequence, today it is being seriously considered in the US Congress,” the FO spokesperson said.

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