OIC Council of FMs to meet on March 22 in wake of NZ attacks: Qureshi

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ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Sunday announced that an emergency meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has been called on March 22 in Istanbul to discuss the causes, impacts and way forward in the aftermath of the New Zealand terror attacks.
Earlier in the day, the Foreign Office confirmed that the death toll of Pakistani victims in the New Zealand terror attacks had risen to nine. Also on Sunday, New Zealand police announced the death toll from the attacks — carried out by 28-year-old Australian Brenton Harrison Tarrant — had risen to 50. Tarrant, who was arrested shortly after the Friday shootings, was indicted by a district court for murder on Saturday.
Addressing a press conference, the foreign minister said that he has been in contact since yesterday with his Turkish counterpart and the two have agreed to summon the meeting. Turkey currently holds the rotating OIC presidency.
“The idea behind summoning the meeting is to devise a strategy against Islamophobia, while keeping the Christchurch tragedy in mind,” he said, adding that the participants will discuss the root cause of the issue.
According to Anadolu Agency, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif also called for holding an emergency meeting of the OIC during a phone call with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu.
In a statement, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said Zarif called for “appropriate reaction of Muslim states to this heinous crime”.
Qureshi on Sunday, accompanied by FO spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal, said that according to the authorities in New Zealand, the process for identification of bodies has been completed and they will start handing over all bodies to their heirs on Monday. He added that New Zealand has agreed to keep the foreign ministry in loop in connection with the investigations.
Qureshi further said that the families of six Pakistani victims have decided to offer funeral prayers and bury their loved ones in Christchurch, while families of three victims want to bring back the bodies to offer last rituals in Pakistan. He said that he has already asked New Zealand officials to hasten the process.
The national flag be flown at half-mast on Monday (tomorrow), he added.
The foreign minister paid tribute to Naeem Rashid, one of the victims, for his bravery and courage. Rashid has been hailed as a hero on social media after being seen in a video of the attacks apparently trying to tackle the gunman before being shot.
The minister said that despite being injured, Rashid, while showing exemplary valour, tried to stop the gunman. He said that in recognition of Rashid’s courage, he will be honoured with a national award on Pakistan Day, March 23.
The same was announced by Prime Minister Imran Khan earlier in the day.


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