IT is a matter of satisfaction that the government is negotiating with the authorities concerned in Saudi Arabia to bring down the cost of Hajj package and provide relief to the pilgrims.
Minister for Religious Affairs Mufti Abdul Shakoor assured the National Assembly on Friday that the Hajj expenses will be brought below Rs 6, 50,000.
The fact of matter is that when the present government came into power a few weeks back, reports were that the Hajj under government scheme will cost between eight hundred thousand and one million rupees due to many factors including devaluation of Pakistan’s currency and increase in the international prices of petroleum products.
Because of this, fewer Hajj applications were also received this year. Many people save money for several years for this once in a life time opportunity and the Hajj package that was earlier under consideration by Ministry of Religious Affairs (MORA) amounted to shattering their dreams.
Anyway, the incumbent federal minister who has a religious background and understands very well the importance of this ritual rejected the package and immediately engaged with the authorities in Saudi Arabia to reduce burden on the pilgrims.
As a result, he has been able to secure better rates. For instance, the MORA has now managed to hire buildings in Madina at 720 Riyal against the rate of 2100 Riyal paid in 2019.
Similarly, the residential buildings have been hired in lesser rates in Makkah. This really indicates that with a little bit of effort, a better deal that is in the interest of our pilgrims, can be struck with friends in KSA who have always shown open heartedness for Pakistani people.
Whilst we are confident that sufficient arrangements will be made both in Makkah and Madina for comfortable stay of our pilgrims, the MORA should also reduce its own expenses that it makes in the holy land.
Since the number of Pakistani pilgrims under government scheme this year will be far less than they used to be pre-Covid 19 period, a small contingent of MORA will be sufficient to cater to the requirements of our pilgrims.
Similarly, an eye should also be kept on private tour hajj operators so that they do not fleece the pilgrims.