ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Wednesday approved the Haj Policy 2017, that would allow around 179,210 applicants to perform Haj this year after an agreement was signed with Saudi Arabia for ehanced quota.
In the past, Pakistan’s Haj quota was fixed at 143,368 applicants. The quota was reduced in 2013 due to expansion work in the Grand Mosque.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who chaired the cabinet meeting, expressed reservations over [high] Haj expenses and directed the Ministry of Religious Affairs to revise the rates and present a summary in this regard in the next cabinet meeting.
The prime minister also directed the religious affairs ministry to provide maximum facilities to hujjaj, and added that their comfort should not be compromised.
According to the Ministry of Religious Affairs, the total Haj package for people travelling from the northern region will be Rs280,000 and for people travelling from the southern region, such as Karachi, Quetta and Sukkur, will be Rs270,000.
This year Haj expenses will be costlier by Rs10,000 when compared with last year. However, the prime minister has directed the ministry to charge the same amount as last year from people.
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Minister for Religious Affairs Sardar Muhammad Yousaf, while announcing the policy at a news conference, said in 2017, 179,210 pilgrims will offer Haj and out of them 60%, or 107,526 pilgrims, will avail the government-sponsered Haj scheme/government quota.
The rest of 40%, or 71,684, would go through private scheme, he added.
In addition, 2% of total seats under the government scheme would be reserved for hardship cases. The quota has been reserved for broken families, newlyborn infants whose parents are going for Haj and intend to carry their children with them.
Hardship quota is allocated on equitable basis to applicants belonging to far-off/rural areas including Gilgit-Baltistan, Balochistan, etc.
“The Ministry of Religious Affairs starts accepting Haj applications from April 17 and the process will continue till April 26 through 10 specific leading commercial banks of the country.
“The draw will be held on April 28,” he announced.
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People, who have Machine Readable Pakistani Passport and CNIC valid up to March1, 2018 can apply, he said.
According to the Haj Policy, after the announcement of successful pilgrims, all those declared unsuccessful may withdraw their dues from respective bank branch immediately.
Under the government scheme, applicants who have performed Haj during the last seven years will not be eligible to apply this year. Similarly for private schemes, those who performed Haj during the last five years will not be eligible.
This restriction will not apply to ‘mehram’. However, Haj-i-Badal can only be performed through the private scheme, the minister said.
The ban on performing free Haj remains intact, he said.
Moreover under the government scheme, shared accommodation will be provided or arranged in accordance with Saudi laws and Housing Permits (Tasreeh and Tasneef) along with boarding and lodging services.
While sharing details of the facilities that will be provided to pilgrims going through the government scheme, the minister said modern/air-conditioned buses will be provided to transport pilgrims from the airport to their residences.
“The provision of best quality cooked meals will be provided three times a day in Mashair (Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah). They will be provided filtered water and effective cooling systems in each maktab in Mina. Just to avoid any untoward situation, fireproof tents at Arafat will be provided to them.”
Meanwhile, a provision of 100% accommodation in markazia in Madina will be ensured.
Moreover, their luggage would be directly transported to the place where they would be staying right after going through the immigration procedure.