Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday visited the shrine of Hazrat Imam Raza (AS) in Mashhad during his brief stopover at the start of his two-day official visit to Iran. The prime minister paid respects at the shrine and offered nawafil. He also prayed for the peace and prosperity of the country, a PM Office statement said.At the invitation of Iranian President Dr Hassan Rouhani, this is the first visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to Iran after assuming the office. On his arrival at the Mashhad airport, the prime minister was received by Governor General Khorasan-e-Razavi province Alireza Razm Hosseini and senior officials. The prime minister is accompanied by Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari, Minister for Maritime Affairs Syed Ali Haider Zaidi, Adviser to PM on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Overseas Pakistanis Sayed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on National Health Services Dr Zafarullah Mirza and Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Petroleum Nadeem Baber.Mashhad is known for its religious and spiritual appeal to millions of Muslims particularly because the holy shrine of Imam Ali Ibne Musa Raza (AS) is located there. Every year, a huge number of pilgrims visit the city. More than 350,000 pilgrims from Pakistan alone visited Mashhad last year. The prime minister held a meeting with Custodian of the Holy Shrine Hojat-ul-Islam Val Muslemin Ahmad Marvi, besides visiting the Museum of Holy Quran situated in the premises of the shrine. He thanked the government of Khorasan for facilitating a very large number of pilgrims from Pakistan during Muharram and Arbaeen. He said the government of Pakistan is also taking a number of steps to facilitate the movement of Pakistani Zaireen (pilgrims) to Iran.The prime minister expressed happiness on starting his visit from the holy city of Mashhad. He added that the guiding light for his government are the principles on which the Holy Prophet (PBUH) based the State of Medina. He said Pakistanis can never forget that Iran always stood with Pakistan in difficult times, and underlined Pakistan’s desire for closer relations with Iran. Hojjatuleslam Valmoslemin Ahmed Marvi underlined the importance of unity of Muslim Ummah. He said the Muslims can get united only if they follow the teachings of Holy Prophet (PBUH), Khulafa-e-Rashdeen and Imam Reza (AS). During his meetings with the leadership of Khorasan-e-Rizvi province, the prime minister underscored the importance Pakistan attaches to expanding bilateral relations with Iran in diverse fields. He said maintaining good relations with neighbourly countries is the cornerstone of his government’s foreign policy.Later, he left Mashhad for Tehran where he will call on Supreme Leader of Islamic Revolution Seyyed Ali Khamenei, besides holding in-depth talks with President Dr Hassan Rouhani on Monday (today). He will also meet members of the Iranian and Pakistani business community in Iran.The state-run IRNA news agency said Imran Khan’s trip is expected to help ‘develop ties between the two countries, especially those related to regional cooperation in fighting terrorism and safeguarding borders’. Iran and Pakistan share a long border that runs near the volatile southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan, which has witnessed numerous attacks on Iran’s security forces over the years.Pakistan’s relations with Iran are marked by close historic and cultural linkages and strong people-to-people exchanges. Both countries are also members of the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).