ISLAMABAD: The exp­enses for this year’s Haj are likely to come down by Rs40,000 per person following “successful negotiations” with the Saudi government, an official said on Monday after a meeting of the Senate’s standing committee on religious affairs.

“If the rupee remains stable, the Haj package under the government scheme will come down to Rs1.13 million from Rs1.17m, for the northern region, and to Rs1.12m from Rs1.16m for the southern region,” the religious affairs ministry official said.

The northern region con­sists of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, while the southern region comprises Sindh and Balochistan.

The price difference is due to lower air fares from the southern region.

In reply to a query over reasons for a jump in Haj expenditure this year under the government scheme, the official cited the Saudi government’s decision to raise charges for several services, including food and rents for accommodation in Makkah and Madina.

The charges for food have gone up from Rs 53,440 last year to Rs100,238, and Haj dues from Rs302,303 to Rs356,066, he explained.

However, the official added, the key reason for the hefty package was the rupee’s declining value.

The number of Pakis­tanis allowed by the Saudi government to perform Haj is 179,210.

Sixty per cent of the quota was usually assigned to the government Haj scheme and 40 per cent to private operators, but the ministry of religious affairs has decided to give 50 per cent of the quota to the latter this year.

In fact, the sitting minister for religious affairs, Mufti Abdul Shakoor, had reversed the arrangement last year by granting 60 per cent quota to the private operators.

At the same time, the ministry has earmarked half of the 89, 605 quota for government scheme for the “Sponsorship Scheme”. Under this arrangement, 44,802 seats have been reserved for those who make payment for the Haj package in US dollars.

Publication of holy Quran

Earlier, the Senate committee unanimously passed a bill aimed at ensuring the disposal of damaged pages and copies of the Holy Quran in a proper manner as well as to stop the use of sub-standard paper for the purpose.

The Publication of the Holy Quran (Elimination of Printing and Recording Errors) (Amendment) Bill proposes the establishment of a board to supervise an error-free printing, publication and recording of the Holy Quran. including the uploading of copies on internet.

The bill proposes to disallow the printing of the holy book’s Arabic text in newspapers, greeting cards, posters, brochures and other advertising material. Publication of a translation of the text only will be permitted if the bill is adopted by parliament.

The committee directed the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) to ensure enforcement of laws related to sanctity of the holy Quran.

The CII’s Director General said the Quran Board would be constituted after passage of the draft law. “The bill will become a guideline for amending laws at the provincial level,” he added.

The meeting was attended, among others, by Senators Anwar Lal Din, Bahramand Khan Tangi, Maulvi Faiz Muhammad and Naseebullah Bazai.

Published in Dawn, March 28th, 2023

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