ISLAMABAD, Feb 13 (APP):Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Dr Noor-ul-Haq Qadri Wednesday said the Government Scheme Hajj Package was cheaper than many countries, including Iran, India, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia, in terms of dollars.
Addressing a news conference here, he said about Rs 157,000 had been increased in the Hajj expenses as compared to the previous year.
He said the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government understood the people’s problems, but the country’s financial health at the moment did not allow it to offer any subsidy. Once the economy improved, the government would provide better facilities to the pilgrims, he hoped.
He said the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government in its last year had given a one time subsidy of Rs 42,426 to each Hajj pilgrim.
Giving the breakup of increased Hajj expenses, the minister said Rs 63,110 extra was being charged owing to appreciation in dollar-rupee parity ratio and Rs 17,000 on account of rise in airfare. Moreover, transport charges and rent of buildings hired in Saudi Arabia for pilgrims, had also been increased, he added.
As regards the claim of Association of All Pakistan Enrolled Companies of offering a Hajj package of Rs 380,000 per head, he said he had already summoned the representatives of registered firms to elaborate as to how cheaper Hajj was possible.
The companies having no Hajj quota, he said, were making false claims. The people should contact only registered Hajj Group Organisers (HGOs). Last year a women had announced the Hajj package of Rs 80,000, but after collecting money from the intending pilgrims, she fled from the country, he added.
A private Hajj organizer, who offered a cheap Hajj package, would be rewarded, the minister said.
The minister said the government had constituted a special committee to rationalize private Hajj packages. The committee having four members each from the Religious Ministry and Hajj Organisers Association of Pakistan (HOAP) had the mandate to check facilities being offered in private packages.
He said Saudi Arabia had included Pakistan into its ‘Road to Makkah’ project under which all immigration requirements were fulfilled at Karachi and Lahore airports. However, efforts were underway to secure permission for inclusion of Islamabad and Peshawar in the project also, he added.
This year, he said, the intending pilgrims of Balochistan would be airlifted directly from Quetta to Jeddah and Madina.
He said the Hujjaj (pilgrims) would be served fresh quality food according to the Pakistani taste during their stay in Saudi Arabia. Kuddam ul Hujjaj and Muavineen had been given access to camps in Saudi Arabia, he added.
The minister said the intending pilgrims from Gilgit-Baltistan would not have to come to Haji Camp Islamabad to attend Hajj training workshops as a temporary camp would be established in their area. The biometric verification of intending pilgrims of far flung areas would be conducted through mobile vans, he added.
He said each intending pilgrim would have to attend at least five to six training workshops. The services of women trainers would be hired for women pilgrims.
Social media, he said, would also be used for imparting training to the pilgrims and an App would be developed for the purpose. Hajj forms had been made more easier.
All Pakistan Hujjaj would be provided the services of train in Saudi Arabia, he added.
The minister said about 10,000 seats would be reserved for senior citizens (above the age of 80 years). Female pilgrims of over 80 years might be accompanied by female helpers along with their joint ‘Mehram’ while male aged pilgrims might be accompanied by one helper.
He said 10,000 seats had been reserved for persons, who remained unsuccessful in balloting continuously for the last three years (2016, 2017 & 2018).
Total 184,210 Pakistanis will perform Hajj this year, including 40 percent through private Hajj organizers and 60 percent under the government scheme.