The Senate Standing Committee on Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony on Thursday expressed reservations over the proposed increase of Rs115,000 in the government Haj scheme package for 2020.
The meeting chaired by Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl's Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri directed the religious affairs ministry to justify the cost hike in the next meeting to avoid its rejection.
Senator Haideri said the ministry was increasing the cost of the Haj package every year, making it difficult for the poor to perform the religious obligation.
In a briefing to the committee, Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Secretary Mian Mushtaq Ahmed Borana earlier said that this year 179,000 Pakistanis will perform Haj and the government package's cost will be increased by Rs115,000 per person.
The package for the northern region will cost Rs550,000 while it will amount to Rs545,000 for the southern region per intending pilgrim, he added.
He said the main reason for the increase was the depreciation of the rupee against the dollar, in addition to an increase in airlines' fares, etc.
The secretary told lawmakers that the ministry had returned Rs5 billion to the pilgrims who performed Haj through the government programme last year. Each pilgrim was returned between Rs37,000 and Rs60,000, he said.
The committee expressed its dismay over the absence of Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Noorul Haq Qadri at the meeting and issued directions for him to be present in the next meeting, scheduled for next week.
Borana informed the body that the minister was in Karachi to attend a meeting of the Ulema and Mashaikh Council.