ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet would on Wednesday consider whether or not to accept PIA’s demand to raise hajj fares for this year by Rs15,000.
According to officials at the national flag carrier, the airline has called for an increase in fares to overcome its economic losses and match the rise in the prices of fuel in the international market. But officials at the religious affairs ministry told The Express Tribune that they would oppose the Rs15,000 increase “because it could have a serious backlash.” In their meetings for the preparation of the National Hajj Policy, both PIA and the religious affairs ministry could not evolve a consensus on fares and the matter was left to the cabinet.
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani would chair the cabinet meeting which is also likely to take up at least 16 other matters relating to the national economy, according to the agenda obtained by The Express Tribune. The policy prepared by the religious affairs ministry and likely to be approved by the cabinet also seeks a decision on whether or not the Saudi Airline should also be allowed to transport intending pilgrims to end PIA’s monopoly. Last year, PIA charged intending pilgrims between Rs 61,000 and 73,000 depending on the distance between the home airport and the final destination in Saudi Arabia.
The cabinet is also likely to finalise tour operators to facilitate intending pilgrims who wish to perform hajj under the private scheme. The religious affairs ministry has proposed that 70 per cent of those opting for the government scheme would stay in old New Mina city while the rest are likely to be accommodated at Old Mina. According to the agenda, the cabinet is also likely to approve a law to allow trade union activities in commercial banks.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 12th, 2010.