Crisis-hit Pakistan returns Hajj quota to Saudi Arabia for the first time in history


ISLAMABAD – For the first time ever, Pakistan surrendered the Hajj quota to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) as the worsening economic crisis hampered the annual Islamic pilgrimage and exorbitant costs deprived people of the South Asian nation of fulfilling their religious obligation.

Islamabad surrendered the quota of Hajj in the wake of a shortfall of applications amid soaring prices and a shortage of dollar. Ministry of Religious Affairs took the decision after the federal cabinet approved as if not returned, it would have cost nearly $24 million to national kitty.

This year, Saudi officials allocated a quota of 179,000 pilgrims to Pakistan for the first since the pandemic affected the Hajj operation. A quota of 89,605 Hajj pilgrims was set under the state-run scheme while the remaining was shared with the private sector.

The cash-strapped nation however failed to fill in the given quota as there was a shortfall of 8,000 applications.

For the unversed, the expense of sponsored Hajj is around Rs1.2 million, which is huge, especially in times when people are struggling to get basic commodities. Amid the dollar crunch, the government makes desperate attempts as the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony even allocate a special quota for the Hajj pilgrims who will pay in USD.

Hajj Fight Operations

Pakistan is to start the Hajj flight operation as the first batch of pilgrims will take off from the country’s federal capital on May 20.

Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Senator Muhammad Talha Mahmood briefed that the first Hajj flight would take off in the third week of May. Briefing the minister and other officials, the Secretary of Religious Affairs informed that the Hajj fight operation would be concluded after mid-June.

As per the procedure, the biometrics of pilgrims would be completed by coming Friday (April 28), as the ministry had sought valid passports of pilgrims till the same date.