ISLAMABAD: Pakistan spent Rs168.8 million on accommodating pilgrims sent for Hajj last year through the government scheme, the upper house of parliament was told on Friday.
For the 73,406 pilgrims, including 1,190 welfare staff, which performed the annual pilgrimage to Makkah in 2015, 139 buildings were rented for accommodation, the religious affairs and inter-faith harmony minister said.
Sardar Muhammad Yousaf shared these details in response to a question asked by Senator Talha Mehmood of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) on the details of expenditures of pilgrims, who went through the official scheme last year.
The ministry, Yousaf said, paid Rs131.7m to the owners of private buildings in Makkah and Rs37.18m in Madina. About 75% accommodations were hired in the central areas while the remaining 25% were within a distance of 900 metres of the city centre. About 82% pilgrims were accommodated within the central areas.
In response to another question, the minister said the renting out of buildings was a time-consuming process and each building was visited by the members of hiring committee. The rent was finalised for 75 days.
Under Saudi regulations, Yousaf said agreements of all hired buildings were finalised before June 18, 2015, for the issuance of Hajj visas. The process for hiring buildings was started through open advertisements to get the best buildings for Pakistani pilgrims.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 23rd, 2016.