SHAFAQNA – Keeping in view continued attacks on pilgrims to Iran, especially members of Shia Hazara community, that have claimed hundreds of lives the federal government is set to launch a ferry service for pilgrims from Karachi to Iran, officials said on Tuesday.
After several attacks on pilgrims’ buses going from Balochistan’s areas to neighbouring Iran, the provincial government had put a ban on travel through land routes to Iran four months ago, considering it the easiest way out to protect pilgrims.
However, the officials said, authorities in Islamabad had long put together heads to carve out an alternative route for pilgrims who had been protesting since to perform pilgrimage in protective environs.
“The paperwork and other necessary arrangements have already been made to launch the ferry service from Karachi to Iran,” stated Minister for Ports and Shipping Kamran Michael on Tuesday.
At a recent meeting of the ministry, participants were informed that the ferry service project was waiting for a formal no-objection certificate (NOC) from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to formally start rolling.
“The ferry service will immediately be launched — once the NOC is received — from Karachi for the travellers who wish to visit Iran to see the sacred places,” said Mr Michael.
The officials, however, did not mention the destination where the Karachi ferry would end its journey and drop its passengers.
However, some officials said it would most likely be the Port of Chabahar in the south of Iran’s Sistan and Baluchistan province abutting Pakistan’s Balochistan.
Iran’s key port city Bandar Abbas, capital of Hormozgan province, comes well after Chabahar.
“It could be from Karachi to Chabahar. But, a final destination will be known after our government gets final nod from the Iranian authorities for the project,” said an official.
Sources said the key purpose to start the ferry service for pilgrims is to get them safely into the Iranian territory.
“It is a sort of facility to be used as bypassing the hazards in Balochistan,” the official said.
The last attack on pilgrims had been reported in June when a suicide attack killed 28 people in Mastung.
The provincial government then arranged C-130 flights to carry 301 pilgrims from Dalbandin to Quetta International Airport for fear of more attacks on pilgrims on the Taftan-Quetta highway.
Source : shia post