ISLAMABAD: More than 32,000 pilgrims chosen by computerised ballot on Sunday would perform Haj this year under a government scheme.

They were selected out of 63,604 applicants, including 38,778 men and 24,826 women, who applied for Haj on government quota.

Besides, 1,000 people will perform Haj on hardship quota and another 200 on labour quota under the scheme.

Minister for Communications Asad Mehmood held the ballot for 32,453 successful pilgrims. Addressing a press conference along with Minister for Housing Maulana Abdul Wasay at the Press Information Department, Mr Mehmood said the Haj process had been delayed due to Covid-19 and other domestic issues.

Process delayed due to Covid-19 and other domestic issues, says minister

The Saudi Ministry of Haj and Umrah had not provided the details of mandatory expenses yet, he said, adding that as soon as the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony received the details, it would publicise the total cost of the pilgrimage.

He said the Saudi government had set the May 16 deadline for completing all Haj-related formalities. Due to time constraints, Religious Affairs Minister Mufti Abdul Shakoor and Additional Secretary Aftab Akbar Durrani were already in Saudi Arabia to settle down all the issues on a war footing, he added.

Haj preparations usually start some seven to eight months before Zilhaj, the twelfth and final month in the Islamic calendar.

The minister said Pakistan received a Haj quota of 81,132 pilgrims this year, which was being distributed with the ratio of 40:60 to the government and private schemes, respectively.

The ministry has set up a Haj helpline with landline numbers 051-9205696 and 051-9216980-82 to facilitate and guide the pilgrims. They can also seek guidance by sending a message to the official WhatsApp number at 0306-3332555.

Personal smartphones are mandatory for the pilgrims, as they are required to download two approved mobile apps — Tawakkalna and Eatmarna — as per the instructions of the Saudi Ministry of Haj and Umrah.

The Saudi authorities have launched the apps to facilitate overseas pilgrims and to obtain visit permits for the holy mosques in Makkah and Madina.

The Haj is open to those who have received the approved Covid-19 vaccinations by the Saudi health

ministry, and the pilgrims are required to submit a negative Covid-19 PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test result performed within 72 hours of the time of departure to Saudi Arabia.

People above the age of 65 years cannot perform Haj this year.

Meanwhile, the first successful applicant selected through the ballot was Ghulam Hussain from Narowal.

Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2022

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