Despite having wings that need urgent attention, Ministry of Religious Affairs is only ever active in the Hajj season, Pakistan Today has learnt.
The ministry is responsible for accommodating pilgrims every year and is active during the Hajj season. However, the remaining eleven months the role of the ministry remain purely “symbolic” despite having many wings which include Dawah and Ziarat, Umrah and Zakat, Research and Reference and Interfaith Harmony wings.
Sources in the ministry said that ever since the ministry was established, the Hajj wing has remained active once a year; however, the remaining departments remain “symbolic”.
While sharing the details, the sources said that Umrah wing is important which deals with private tour operators as it has become a lucrative business in the country because millions of pilgrims visit Saudi Arabia throughout the year to perform religious rites.
It has come to attention that there is no fixed rate at which to charge people intending to perform religious rites, and every Umrah operator has been charging people according to its devised rate. The ministry has been receiving several complaints against private Umrah tour operators. However, the ministry seems lethargic to make a law through which private tour operators could be controlled.
According to sources, at one point the ministry had announced to regulate private Umrah tour operators. However, there no concrete steps have been taken by the ministry in this regard.
Similarly, through Dawah and Ziarat wing, the ministry is supposed to arrange a group of Pakistani devotees to visit India so they could visit a holy place. However, for many years Dawah and Ziarat wing remain active only in the books. Research and reference wing, which is supposed to do research, has carried out no big research in recent past.
On the other hand, interfaith harmony wing—which deals with promoting interfaith harmony among all religions, and ministry is supposed to play its active role so interfaith harmony could be developed among all religions—has taken no major steps, indicating the failure of the ministry.
POLITICAL DOMINANCE IN HAJJ QUOTAS:
Sources in the ministry told Pakistan Today that the dominance of political parties in Hajj quota is at its peak. Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) is at the top, which always gets Hajj quotas as JUI-F is a coalition partner of the ruling PML-N.
Every year ministry issues thousands of Hajj quotas. However, due to political influence, the transparency remains a big issue, said sources close to the development.
JUI-F’s Senator Maulana Atta-ur-Rehman, however, claimed that his party never used its influence to get Hajj quotas. The lawmaker claimed that despite the party being an ally of the incumbent government, the party has never used its influence.
When contacted, Religious Affairs Minister Sardar Muhammad Yousaf admitted that the ministry only seemed active in Hajj season because it’s a huge event, in which millions of Pakistani pilgrims visit Saudi Arabia.
“The remaining wings are functional but their works were not being highlighted,” said the minister.
The ministry claimed that private Umrah tour operators would be controlled, as the law is being amended. According to the minister, the ministry in the recent past organised an international conference in which world’s biggest scholars visited.