ISLAMABAD: A group of angry Pakistani pilgrims in Saudi Arabia had a heated exchange with the Federal Minister for Religious Affairs for his ministry’s failure to provide adequate facilities to them during Hajj.
A five minute eighteen seconds video was uploaded on an official Whatsapp group created for Hajj by the ministry, which showed that the Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Sardar Muhammad Yousaf being cornered by an angry group of pilgrims. Although the minister tried to give answer to the problems faced by the pilgrims, the video showed that the protesters did not let him speak.
The video showed that one of the pilgrims was criticising the government for a lack of transport arrangements for them in Mina which forced them to walk on foot for miles. He said that due to the absence of transport they had to walk to Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah.
“Throughout the day we kept on waiting for a bus but we were not provided that despite several reminders,” he said.
The protester also said that Pakistani women pilgrims were seen pleading in front of the officials of the department concerned to provide them a transport but their requests were ignored.
“Due to the absence of facilities a majority of us fell, and even I had to spend a day at a hospital, there was no ambulance that could transport us to the hospital, we were feeling helpless like anything,” lamented the pilgrim.
They even accused ministry’s officials of being involved in corruption and chanted slogans like, ‘sub chor hain’ (everyone’s a thief).
Despite the protest, Yousaf maintained that the government had provided them with best facilities.
In order to pacify the protesters, Yousuf said that the absence of transport facilities was because of the Saudi authorities. He said that people who were found guilty in creating issues for the pilgrims will be punished, adding that money will be refunded to those who did not get the transport. The minister also claimed that Pakistani officials were not allowed to go to Mina.
“We have already lodged a written protest with the Saudi authorities and I cannot do much, as we are also helpless,” said the minister who was visibly shaken by the angry pilgrims, who kept on chanting slogans and refused to listen to him. Later the minister left without satisfying the angry pilgrims.
Earlier, a senior government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity told The Express Tribune that this year the ministry had requested the prime minister to increase the amount of the Hajj package, but the request was turned down.
“Therefore, it was not easy for us to provide all kind of facilities to the pilgrims within the meagre amount,” he said.
Meanwhile, Pakistani pilgrims who arrived in Pakistan on Wednesday and Thursday also shared their miseries, adding that they also had to face a tough time due to the absence of important facilities for them.
Watch the video here: