ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia has not taken any decision to call off this year’s Haj, the Religious Affairs Minister said on Thursday, scotching rumours that Riyadh has decided to cancel the event due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“Saudi Arabia has only told us not to finalise any Haj-related agreement for the time being. A final decision will be taken by King Salman himself,” Pir Noorul Haq Qadri told a press conference.
He said Saudi Haj Minister Dr Mohammad Saleh bin Taher had advised the government not to finalise any agreement regarding hotels, provision of food and transport arrangements.
Dr Mohammad Saleh said the Saudi government was monitoring the situation and would get in touch with Pakistan as soon as it felt that the virus outbreak had eased.
“The government has conveyed the Saudi message to all Haj operators and put on hold arrangements for the time being,” the minister said.
“But we are in touch with the Saudi Haj and Umrah ministry.”
Pir Noorul Haq Qadri said since the Haj complex in Islamabad had been converted into a quarantine centre, the training of pilgrims stood suspended.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs had conducted Haj ballot for the government scheme last month.
Meanwhile, an official of the ministry of religious affairs told Dawn that the Pakistani Haj mission in Saudi Arabia, which makes housing arrangements for pilgrims and takes care of other needs, had informed the government that the Saudi authorities had stopped them from signing any agreement for now.
Published in Dawn, March 27th, 2020