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Pakistani, Iranian leaders seek to increase trade, ease diplomatic tensions

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Iranian and Pakistani leaders vowed to strengthen economic and security cooperation in a meeting on Monday, as the two countries seek to smooth over a diplomatic rift.

Their meeting was part of efforts by Islamabad and Tehran to mend ties which had been briefly strained in January when each carried out strikes in the other’s territory, targeting militants accused of attacking their own security forces.

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi and Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharifin spoke to reporters after meeting at Sharif’s office, hours after Raisi arrived in Islamabad for a three-day visit.

PAKISTANI SECURITY FORCES KILL 7 MILITANTS TRYING TO ENTER COUNTRY

Authorities have deployed hundreds of additional police and paramilitary forces to ensure security during the visit.

Pakistan has witnessed a surge in militant violence in recent months, mostly blamed on Pakistani Taliban and insurgents targeting security forces in Pakistan and neighboring Iran.

Sharif welcomed Raisi with an honor guard ceremony in front of the premier’s office. According to a statement released by the premier’s office, the two leaders discussed a range of bilateral issues and vowed to cooperate to fight terrorism, as well as jointly reiterating condemnations of Israel’s war in Gaza.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi walks with Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif during a welcome ceremony

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, left, walks with Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, right during a welcome ceremony in the prime minister’s house in Islamabad, Pakistan, on April 22, 2024. (Prime Minister Office via AP)

Sharif praised Iran’s «strong stand on the issue of Palestine» and said «Pakistan is also with the Palestinians.»

In his televised remarks, Raisi said that the killings by Israel in Gaza were being committed with the support of the United States and other Western countries. He criticized the international organizations, including the United Nations, saying «they say they support human rights, but they proved that they are inefficient».

He also vowed to boost what he called «unacceptably» meager bilateral trade and called for setting up more border markers. Pakistan and Iran set up the first such border market in southwestern Pakistan’s Baluchistan province last year, promising to set up five more such markets under a 2012 agreement.

The two leaders also signed eight cooperation agreements, according to Sharif’s office.

Authorities said the two sides also discussed the multi-billion gas pipeline project, on hold since 2014. The project — opposed by Washington for what it says is a violation of sanctions imposed on Tehran over its nuclear program — launched in 2013 to supply Iranian natural gas to energy-starved Pakistan.

Iran says it has already completed the pipeline on its side of the border after investing $2 billion. Pakistan was supposed to finish construction on its territory by the end of 2014, but work stalled, leading to tensions between the two nations.

The Iranian president is set to meet with his Pakistani counterpart Asil Ali Zardari who helped launch the pipeline project after traveling to Iran in 2013.

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He also met with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar. The two discussed regional and global developments and «affirmed commitment to peace and constructive dialogue for resolving regional challenges.»

Raisi is accompanied by his spouse and a high-level delegation. He plans to visit Karachi, the country’s biggest city, and Lahore, where he will meet with the country’s recently elected first female chief minister Maryam Nawaz Sharif.

The visit comes after Iran’s airstrike into Israel, which was in response to an Israeli strike in Syria that had killed two Iranian generals in a consular building. Pakistan is among the countries that have no diplomatic relations with Israel because of the issue of Palestinian statehood.

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Illegally brewed liquor kills at least 34 with dozens hospitalized in southern India

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At least 34 people have died and dozens hospitalized after drinking illegally brewed liquor in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, local media reported on Thursday.

The state’s chief minister M K Stalin said the 34 died after consuming liquor that was tainted with methanol, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

MORE THAN 100 DIE IN INDIA AFTER DRINKING BOOTLEG ALCOHOL LACED WITH TOXIC SUBSTANCE

The incident occurred in the state’s Kallakurichi district, where more than 100 people are being treated in various hospitals, top district official M S Prasanth said. He added that the number of those who are in critical condition keeps changing, suggesting that the death toll could rise.

Relatives of a man who died after drinking illegally brewed liquor walk in a funeral procession for his burial in Kallakurichi district of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, India, Thursday, June 20, 2024. The state’s chief minister M K Stalin said the 34 died after consuming liquor that was tainted with methanol, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.  (AP Photo/R. Parthibhan)

Ambulances, doctors and specialists from nearby areas were deployed to the district.

Government officials earlier said several people who were vomiting and had stomach pain were admitted to hospitals Wednesday, triggering a police investigation.

Later that day, Stalin, the chief minister, said in a post on social media platform X that those involved in the crime have been arrested, and action has also been taken against officials who failed to prevent it. «Such crimes that ruin the society will be suppressed with an iron fist,» he added.

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Deaths from illegally brewed alcohol are common in India, where the poor cannot afford licensed brands from government-run shops. The illicit liquor, which is often spiked with chemicals such as pesticides to increase potency, has also become a hugely profitable industry as bootleggers pay no taxes and sell enormous quantities of their product to the poor at a cheap rate.

In 2022, more than 30 people died in eastern India’s Bihar state after allegedly drinking tainted liquor sold without authorization. Earlier that same year, at least 28 died from drinking altered liquor in Gujarat state. And in 2020, at least 120 people died after drinking tainted liquor in India’s northern Punjab state.


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