‘Negligent’ operators to be taken to task


Sohail Chaudhry May 06, 2010

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Religious Affairs has prepared a Hajj- Umrah Bill 2010, which will allow criminal cases to be registered against tour operators for negligence in providing services to pilgrims during Hajj.

Religious Affairs Secretary Agha Sarwar Qazilbash told The Express Tribune that the new Hajj policy has been sent to all stakeholders, including the Foreign Office and the finance ministry for feedback. It will be presented in the cabinet on May 12. Qazilbash said that the bill was prepared in response to complaints from pilgrims against different tour operators. “We want to ensure transparency in Hajj and welfare of pilgrims is our top priority,” he said, adding that this legislation would ensure that tour operators were accountable for their performance.

The government had also sold five companies and reimbursed the amount to those who were not able to perform Hajj. “About Rs50 million were returned to those who had been cheated by these companies, so that they (the pilgrims) can perform hajj now,” he said. Qazilbash said the ministry had decided to transfer the responsibility of pilgrims’ travel to airlines, so that the ministry could concentrate on making other arrangements in Saudi Arabia to facilitate pilgrims.

Speaking about accommodation facilities, he said the ministry had sent staff to Saudi Arabia to ensure appropriate accommodation and transport facilities. They have been directed to arrange accommodation within two kilometres of Harram Sharif in Makkah. He said the Pakistani business community in Saudi Arabia had assured that they would provide at least 600 volunteers to facilitate pilgrims.

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