Well-managed Hajj operation

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AS post-Hajj operation to airlift Pakistani pilgrims back home from Saudi Arabia is underway, there is greater appreciation among pilgrims about management of the operation both by Pakistan Government and the Kingdom during all its phases. The Ministry of Religious Affairs distributed a feedback questionnaire among pilgrims to get their views and recommendations about the operation and the response has been positive.
Vested propaganda and stray incidents notwithstanding, pilgrims have evaluated the Hajj operation as good and provided valuable input to make the process further smooth and efficient. The Road to Makkah project helped mitigate sufferings of the pilgrims during airlifting to the holy land as immigration process was completed at Pakistani airports by energetic Saudi staff and the pilgrims were moved from Jeddah and Madina airports to the buses and onwards to their buildings within minutes in sharp contrast to several hours that they had to spend at airports in the past. Accommodation too was, by and large, up to the mark as it was ensured that the buildings have the necessary facilities like air-conditioning, refrigeration, Wi-Fi, adequate operational lifts and bathrooms. Most of the buildings had attached bathrooms but there were also complaints that some buildings had limited common bathrooms for entire floors causing inconvenience to pilgrims. There were also good transport arrangements to carry pilgrims between Makkah and Madina as well as from their buildings to Haram Sharif in Makkah besides their availability for transportation to and from Mina and Arafat. Food arrangements were also satisfactory and Pakistani doctors and staff remained available for provision of medical facilities to pilgrims. However, it was observed that Pakistani dispensaries and hospitals were far away and not visible in Madina and this aspect should be taken care of in future. Similarly, Hajj Assistants (Muawneen) were active and vigilant and provided much-needed guidance and assistance to pilgrims during pre-Hajj days. Pakistani pilgrims, however, complain that Assistants were not visible during crucial Hajj days as they remained busy in performing their own Hajj than providing assistance to pilgrims who faced immense problems during these days in the absence of proper guidance. The process for acquisition of buildings should be initiated at an early date in future to get quality buildings (as is being done by Turkey). There is also need to further improve the quality of food and variety of the menu as per our own requirements and food habits. Saudi Government also conducted the Hajj operation superbly and as a consequence there was no untoward incident. Another important aspect of the Saudi arrangements was that the authorities worked out a well-knit and comprehensive training and briefing process for pilgrims from across the globe to help them perform Hajj rituals as per true spirits of Islam and Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). Absence of collective prayer places in Mina was badly felt and hopefully the KSA authorities would resolve this problem.