5,000 more Pakistanis to perform Haj in 2019 after agreement with Saudi Arabia

Published December 9, 2018
Pilgrims sit and circumambulate around the Kaaba ahead of the annual Haj pilgrimage in Makkah. —AFP
Pilgrims sit and circumambulate around the Kaaba ahead of the annual Haj pilgrimage in Makkah. —AFP

With an increase in the quota of Haj pilgrims by 5,000, over 184,210 Pakistanis will perform Haj in 2019, said the spokesman of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony.

The Haj agreement for 2019 to this effect was inked by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia on Sunday. Minister of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Noorul Haq Qadri and his Saudi counterpart signed the agreement in Saudi Arabia on behalf of their respective countries.

This year, 179,210 Pakistans had performed Haj.

A Pakistani delegation led by the religious affairs minister is currently in Saudi Arabia in connection with arrangements for next year's Haj.

The ministry's spokesman said that Saudi Arabia has agreed to consider a further increase in Pakistan's quota for pilgrims in view of the census results.

He added that Pakistanis will be granted e-visas.

It was also decided to include Pakistanis into the Kingdom's "Road to Makkah" project under which all immigration requirements are fulfilled at the airport of origin. Initially, 35,000 pilgrims from Sindh will benefit from the project with their immigration and other formalities completed at the Karachi airport.

Saudi officials told the Pakistani delegation that the decision regarding waiver of 2,000 riyals additional fee on those performing Umrah multiple times within two years will be taken after seeking the consent of King Salman.

The spokesman revealed that most of the pilgrims will be provided accommodation at old Mina. The Haj package will likely remain between Rs340,000 and Rs350,000.

He said that the ministry was weighing various options including decreasing the quota for Haj Group Organisers (HGOs). The arrangement of nearby places of accommodation, improvement in transport facilities, and better food for pilgrims was also under consideration, he said.

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

The spokesman said that the ministry would finalise the Haj Policy 2019 by incorporating feedback from the general public, Haj organisers, banks, airline representatives, master trainers, and representatives of other departments.

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