Saudi thinks govt should hand Haj operations over to private tour operators: Noorul Haq Qadri

February 10, 2019

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Noorul Haq Qadri says Saudi authorities want government to push citizens towards opting for private tour operators. ─ AFP/File
Noorul Haq Qadri says Saudi authorities want government to push citizens towards opting for private tour operators. ─ AFP/File

Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Dr Noorul Haq Qadri has said he anticipates a further hike in Haj expenses over the next few years alongside the gradual handing over of Haj operations to private tour operators.

In an appearance on Geo News programme, Geo Parliament, the Minister for Religious Affairs explained that Saudi authorities, as per their Haj policy, want the government to encourage citizens to opt more for private tour operators because "in the future, they believe that we should hand over Haj operations entirely to private tour operators".

His statement comes on the back of a cabinet-approved 63 per cent increase in the cost of Haj which was met with backlash. State Minister Ali Mohammad Khan has held Saudi authorities responsible for the increase in Haj expenses, saying that 70pc of Haj expenses are incurred in Saudi Arabia.

Under the Haj Policy 2019, the cost of performing the pilgrimage under the government scheme was fixed at Rs456,426 (with Qurbani), against last year’s expense of Rs280,000 per person. Now, every individual will have to pay an additional Rs176,426.

Take a look: Cabinet approves 63pc increase in Haj cost

The existing Haj quota is 60pc for the government scheme and 40pc for private Haj tour operators.

Qadri, when questioned about the time frame for implementing a change in the quota, said that the Saudi government wants to do it "through a process".

"As soon as possible, [they] first want every country to [change the quota] to 50pc, then 60pc [for private operators], then 70pc," Qadri added.

Under the quota of 184,000 pilgrims given this year to Pakistan by the government of Saudi Arabia, 10,000 senior citizens are expected to perform Haj.