Islamabad: In a meeting with Saudi Deputy Minister for Interior Dr Nasir bin Abdul Aziz Al- Dawood, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif Wednesday thanked the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) for including Pakistan in the “Road to Makkah” project, which would facilitate Pakistanis intending to go for Hajj this year through the Islamabad International Airport.
During the meeting, the Saudi minister apprised PM Shehbaz that the project would be extended to Lahore and Peshawar next year to facilitate more Pakistani pilgrims in the discharge of the important religious obligation.
PM Shehbaz thanked the brotherly Kingdom for its support to Pakistan during the last year’s catastrophic floods. He also thanked the KSA for helping in the evacuation of Pakistanis stranded in Sudan as the law and order situation worsened there.
Pakistan, Saudi Arabia sign Road to Makkah agreement
On Wednesday, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia officially inked an agreement to implement the “Road to Makkah” initiative, designed to simplify the immigration process for Hajj and Umrah pilgrims.
The signing took place at the Prime Minister’s House, and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Saudi Ambassador in Islamabad, Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki witnessed the signing ceremony.
Under the terms of the agreement, Pakistani Hajj and Umrah pilgrims will receive streamlined immigration facilities within Pakistan, exempting them from lengthy processes upon arrival at Saudi airports. Initially, this service will be available at Islamabad International Airport, benefiting around 26,000 pilgrims during the first phase.
Furthermore, the Saudi authorities have assured that this facility will later be extended to Karachi and Lahore airports.
In addition to the “Road to Makkah” project, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia also signed joint minutes of the meeting, during which they discussed the issuance of Pakistani passports to Burmese Muslims residing in Saudi Arabia. Since 2012, these individuals have faced difficulties as their passports were not renewed, causing legal complications within the Kingdom.