Dr Mohammed Ajam, a senior official of the Iranian foreign ministry, told The Nation on Wednesday that Pakistan was among the seven countries along with the United States and the United Kingdom whose nationals were denied visas on arrival by Iran . For majority of the countries, he said, Iran’s visa policy was very lenient.
“We do not have any problem with Pakistan. They are a friendly country but we deny them this facility [of on-arrival visa] due to the terrorism in Pakistan. We fear some terrorists might sneak in,” Ajam contended.
Ajam, the first minister counsellor of the foreign ministry in eastern Iran , said his country was in talks with Pakistan to facilitate the visitors.
The other countries that are denied on-arrival visa in Iran are: Afghanistan, Bangladesh,India , Canada, Somalia and Israel.
Israel nationals are not granted visas.
Dr Ajam said Pakistan and Iran were in talks to ease the visa process for the visitors from both the sides.
Last month, Minister for Religious Affairs Sardar Muhammad Yousaf said the promotion of tourism would help bring Pakistan and Iran more closer.
He held a meeting with Governor of Khurasan Saeed Hameed Mousavi.
The minister said many Pakistanis wanted to visit sacred religious places situated in Iran and Iraq.
The religious ministry was working to facilitate pilgrims, he said, adding that topmost priority of ministry was to provide maximum facilities to the visitors of Iran and Iraq.
From 2004, Iran experienced a 100 per cent growth in foreign tourist arrivals until mid-2008 when the number of foreign arrivals surged up to 2.5 million.
Specially, there had been an enormous increase in the number of German tourists travelling to Iran since 2008.
The World Travel and Tourism Council claimed that business and personal tourism rose by 11.3 per cent and 4.6 per cent, respectively, in real terms in 2007, with the growth in personal tourism only modestly below that of the preceding year.
In 2011, most of Iran’s international visitors arrived in Iran solely for the purpose of leisure travel.
Leisure tourists arriving from abroad are also often relatives of Iranian citizens or expatriates residing outside of Iran returning to visit.
Another key segment of international arrival traffic is pilgrims come to pay a visit to one of the many holy sites scattered throughout the country.
The number of international arrivals has been steadily increasing, up from 2.2 million people in 2009 to 3.6 million in 2011.
According to official figures, more than five million tourists visited Iranin 2014-2015.
Director-General (Tourism) in Iranian Khorasan province Abul Fazal Mokarrmi said Pakistan should also provide security to Shia pilgrims who came to Iran by road.
“On this side of the border, we are providing security but the religious visitors are scared to travel by road to Iran . Most of them are poor, so they cannot afford to travel by air. Several of them have been killed in the past,” he told The Nation.
Mokarrmi said Iran had so many historical places of attraction to non-Muslims.
“The non-Muslim visitors from Pakistan and around the world can visit Iran . They will not be disappointed,” he said.
The Iranian official said his country valued visitors from Pakistan and expected Islamabad to ease the visa process for the Iranians.
“They should allow our people to visit Pakistan and we can help them come here easily. On-arrival visa can be an option,” he contended.
Mokarrmi referred to the recent Mayors’ Conference in Iran , which was attended by three mayors from Pakistan.
“There should be more city-to-city and province-to-province contacts between Pakistan and Iran . This can be followed up with top level meetings to promote tourism,” he