184,210 Pakistanis to perform Hajj next year


ISLAMABAD: Over 184,210 Pakistanis will perform the sacred religious ceremony of Hajj next year following the increase of country’s Hajj quota by 5,000 pilgrims as compared to this year’s pilgrimage, said spokesman of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony.

The Hajj Agreement 2019 to this effect was inked by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia on Sunday. Minister of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Sahibzada Noorul Haq Qadri and his Saudi counterpart signed the agreement in Saudi Arabia on behalf of their respective countries. It may be mentioned here that this year, 179,210 Pakistanis had performed Hajj.

The Pakistani delegation, led by Minister of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Sahibzada Noorul Haq Qadri, is in Saudi Arabia in connection with Hajj 2019 arrangements.

The spokesman said that Saudi Arabia has agreed to consider further increase in Pakistani Hajj quota in consonance with the census results. Pakistani will be given e-visas. Both countries agreed to gradually include Pakistanis Hujjaj in Road to Mecca project. According to which 35,000 Hujjaj from Sindh will initially benefit from the project as their immigration and other formalities will be completed at Karachi airport.

The Saudi authorities told the delegation that the decision regarding waiving of Rs 2,000 additional fee on performers of multiple Umra will be taken after seeking the consent of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. He said that most Pakistani pilgrims will be provided accommodation at old Mina. The minister thanked Saudi authorities for incorporating recommendations of Pakistan in Hajj agreement.

Talking to APP, sources said that the draft Hajj Policy 2019 has already been prepared.

The ministry is considering various options, including decreasing Hajj quota of Hajj Group Organisers (HGOs) and increasing the quota of government. Hajj package is likely to remain between Rs340,000 to Rs350,000 next year. Other options include arranging nearby residences, improving transport and food facilities for Hujjaj.

The ministry has already held six consultative workshops in major cities for getting stakeholders recommendations. In the workshops, Hujjaj who performed Hajj this year had shared their experiences and recommended improvement in Hajj arrangements.

The minister said that the ministry would finalise the Hajj Policy 2019 by incorporating feedback from the general public, Hajj organizers, banks, airlines representatives, master trainers and representatives of other departments.