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ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Noorul Haq Qadri has said that the government will gradually hand over the Haj operation to the private sector.

In an interview to a TV channel on Sunday, Mr Qadri said the Saudi ­government wanted that the Haj ­pilgrims should be encouraged to opt for private tour operators.

The minister claimed that the Saudi authorities had increased the Haj expenses by almost 70 per cent.

As a result of that the federal cabinet recently enhanced the cost of performing Haj under the government scheme drastically.

Currently, 60pc Pakistanis perform Haj under the government scheme and 40pc through private operators.

When asked about the time frame for the implementation of new Haj policy, Mr Qadri said the Saudi ­government wanted handing over of the Haj operation to the private ­sector gradually.

“They want that every country should declare 50pc quota for the private sector and then increase it to 60pc and again to 70pc,” he said.

This year 184,000 Pakistani ­pilgrims, including 10,000 senior citizens, are expected to perform Haj.

Published in Dawn, February 11th, 2019