ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Tuesday gave approval to the launching of a ferry service for pilgrims (Zaireen and Hujjaj) to provide them an affordable travel facility.
Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Zaidi termed the cabinet’s decision a historic one, saying: “Maritime frontiers (of Pakistan) are now open for sea travel.”
“The federal cabinet has approved launching of a ferry service for Zaireen,” Information Minister Shibli Faraz said in his post-cabinet meeting press conference.
He said all necessary facilities — immigration and customs — would be provided to passengers at Port Qasim, Karachi, and Gwadar.
Ali Zaidi, in a tweet, said: “In pursuance of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vision of blue economy, the federal cabinet has allowed the initiative to start ferry/passenger ships to all possible destinations across the world.”
Responding to a query, Shibli Faraz said there was no opposition to the ferry service in the cabinet and the decision was taken through a majority vote.
However, a participant of the meeting, who did not want to be named, told Dawn that defence authorities had some reservations as they wanted the service to be initially confined to local ports and Muscat.
On the other hand, the maritime ministry’s proposal said it had prepared a feasibility to launch the service not only for the Middle East but other destinations as well.
Mr Zaidi had last year hinted about launching the ferry service to provide economical transport to pilgrims going to Saudi Arabia for Haj and Umrah.
He had said that ferry and passenger ship services required NOC from the defence ministry and his ministry had applied for the service.
The minister hoped that Haj, Umrah and pilgrimages to the middle-eastern countries could become economical through this service.
He said the government would welcome the private sector to operate such services including the one for pilgrims going to Iraq.
Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2020