ISLAMABAD: More than a hundred intending pilgrims staged a protest outside the religious affairs ministry on Friday against a private Hajj tour operator who fled away with their passports and money collected for sending them on the holy journey to Mecca.
Taking notice of the protest, the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony assured ‘strict action’ against Hashmi Travels, the dodgy tour operator.
Clueless on whether they will be able to perform Hajj this year, the intending pilgrims are getting more and more nervous as the day of Hajj is drawing near. They have demanded a ban on the devious private tour operators.
The protesters, belonging to different cities, said they had deposited Rs450,000 per person for a complete Hajj package in May this year, but their visas had not yet been issued.
“My uncle wanted to perform Hajj along with his wife, and the couple had deposited around Rs900,000, but they have still not received their passports, which were given to the tour operators for visa processing,” said Khalid Husain, a relative of one of the intending pilgrims.
He said they had also protested outside the tour operator’s office on August 12 against the delay in the issuance of their visas as they had already received air tickets for August 13, but no action was taken in this regard.
A three-member delegation of protesters also met the secretary religious affairs ministry who assured them of a strict action against the tour operator.
A spokesperson for the ministry, Imran Siddiqui, confirmed that Hashmi Travels, booked pilgrims beyond the allotted quota. He said the operator booked 108 people over and above the quoted allotted to it.
The spokesperson said that a case against Hashmi Travels would be forwarded to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the operator would be blacklisted. He assured the affectees that their money would be refunded.