ISLAMABAD: An unprecedented surge in religious tourism between Pakistan and Iran was witnessed during the months of Muharram and Safar this Islamic year and over 75,000 pilgrims visited religious places in the neighbouring country owing to the upgraded facilities and security arrangements undertaken at Pakistan House on Taftan Border.
According to documents submitted to the Interior Ministry, State Minister for Interior Shehryar Khan Afridi, on special directions of Prime Minister Imran Khan, ensured the provision of foolproof security to the pilgrims while modern and state-of-the-art facilities have also been installed at Pakistan House.
Besides security concerns, pilgrims used to face a lot of troubles pertaining to immigration and amenities during their transit and stay at Taftan Border. In order to address the administrative issues of the pilgrims, Afridi, along with Taftan Rifles commandant, conducted back-to-back visits to Taftan on September 8 and October 24 in 2018.
During these visits, the interior minister formed the Taftan Task Force that was responsible to undertake certain development projects. The task force was headed by Taftan Rifles commandant while 109 Wing commander, Taftan Rifles assistant commissioner (customs), Taftan assistant commissioner and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Taftan assistant director were its members.
The minister had assigned the taskforce with the upgradation of facilities for pilgrims visiting Iran and Iraq in a four months’ time.
The task force had also been assigned to install 20 new immigration counters at FIA’s newly constructed building for better facilitation of the travelers; construction of dual sheltered lanes (exit and entry), including its fencing from new FIA building to the international border, pavement of the parking area around the new FIA office by the National Highway Authority (NHA), installation of a large size national flag in front of the Pakistan gate, improvement of facilities at Pakistan House i.e. canteen, cleanliness and provision of water; and taking action against the contractor who used low quality material on the outer stars of the new FIA building.
In the past, the pilgrims had become victims of terrorist activities that resulted in a prominent decline in number of people travelling to Iran for religious tourism. The issue of pilgrims’ security was promptly taken up by the federal and provincial governments as well as the army/FC simultaneously.
“As of now, security of Zaireen [pilgrims] while travelling from Quetta to Taftan and back is being effectively managed,” the document reads.
The newly constructed FIA Building has been made operational with effect from November 5. Entry and exit lanes for visitors have been fenced to avoid jumbling of pilgrims. Construction of dual sheltered lanes (exit and entry) from the new FIA building to the international border has been completed and a large size Pakistani flag has also been installed in front of the Pakistan gate by FC.
Facilities at Pakistan House have been improved and the provision of clean drinking water, uninterrupted electricity, quality food at cafeterias and regular cleanliness have been ensured at the site. An action has also been taken against the contractor who carried out substandard work on the new FIA building.
“The contractor was pursued through the assistant commissioner (Customs) and necessary improvements have been made,” the document states.
During recent months, federal and provincial governments, along with Balochistan FC (South), have also endeavoured to facilitate the pilgrims’ movement from Pakistan to Iran and back.