Video, Pics: Rajnath Singh Flags Off Inaugural Flight From Lucknow To Najaf In Iraq; Services Resumed After 30 Years

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Lucknow: Union home minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday flagged off the first flight for the holy city of Najaf in Iraq from Chaudhary Charan Singh airport in Lucknow.

Chairman, National Minorities Commission, Gairul Hasan Rizvi and Shia clerics Maulana Yasoob Abbas, Maulana Kalbe Jawwad, Maulana Agha Roohi and Syed Tasneem Mehdi Rizvi were also present on the occasion.

Maulana Yasoob Abbas thanked home minister Rajnath Singh and said this is good news for all of us and our efforts have paid off.

Sayyed Asghar Rizvi, who was issued the first boarding pass for the flight, said: “My dream to visit Najaf has come true. I don’t have words to thank the home minister for his efforts.”

“For years, I wanted this flight to start. I had also written to former civil aviation minister Ajit Singh but he did not fulfil the demand,” Maulana Kalbe Jawwad said.

Maulana Agha Roohi said Congress leader Dr Ammar Rizvi had written to the civil aviation ministry in 2004 demanding a flight for Najaf from Lucknow as the city had sizeable Shia population.

Speaking on the occasion, Rajnath Singh said that this flight should not be seen in the context of elections and he has done this for the sake of humanity.

He said “Ammar Rizvi met me with the proposal a few months ago and I immediately forwarded it to the civil aviation ministry which agreed to it .”

Home minister also added he wanted close ties with Iraq which had played a major role in Islamic education around the world.

Air India resumed flights to Iraq after a 30 year gap. Flights were prevented by years of conflict in Iraq and sanctions against Saddam Hussein’s regime after his invasion of Kuwait, as well as by the extended chaos that came in the wake of the former dictator’s 2003 downfall.

Earlier in December the details mentioned in the tender document seeking bids for appointment of General Sales Agent (GSA) in Iraq read that the frequency of the service would be twice a week and the plane would have 162 seats, with 12 in business class and the rest in the economy class.

Shiite pilgrims from around the world come to Najaf, some 150 kilometres (90 miles) south of Baghdad, to visit the tomb of Imam Ali, Prophet Mohammed‘s son-in-law and founder of Shiite Islam.

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