KARACHI: A 14-member delegation from Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry will arrive in Islamabad on Monday to review arrangements made to assist Haj pilgrims under the ‘Road to Makkah’ project.

Under the project initiated by Saudi Arabia to facilitate the pilgrims, all immigration requirements are fulfilled at the airport of origin. The project includes other countries, like Indonesia and Malaysia. Under the project, 90 per cent of Pakistani pilgrims will go through customs and immigration processes at the airports in Pakistan before leaving for Haj, instead of having to wait for 10-12 hours after arriving in Saudi Arabia, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Religious Affairs said.

The Saudi delegation will be briefed at the Islamabad International Airport by officials from the Customs, Civil Aviation Authority, Anti-Narcotics Force and interior and foreign ministries. The delegation will also review the arrangements made at the airports in Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Islamabad, where the immigration counters are expected to be set up.

The Haj quota allocated to Pakistan by the Saudi government is 179,210 pilgrims with an addition of 5,000 pilgrims this year, which will be allotted to newly-enrolled non-quota holder private Haj group organisers.

Out of the total quota of 179,210 pilgrims, 60 per cent or 107,526 seats will be allocated to the government scheme and 40pc or 71,684 seats to the private Haj scheme.

Earlier on Wednesday, Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri had said that the government would take full care of Haj pilgrims by providing them maximum facilities during their stay in the holy land. He said that the pilgrims would get proper training before their journey for the pilgrimage. He had also added that the Saudi government had provided e-visa facility to Pakistan. He said that the Saudi authorities had pledged to give accommodation to Pakistani pilgrims in the jurisdiction of Old Mina during Haj days besides providing them fresh food instead of frozen.

Published in Dawn, March 31st, 2019