ISLAMABAD: Pakistan lacks data on Umrah pilgrims as well as an official platform to deal with the issues of the pilgrims and address them, according to an official at the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony.
The official told The Express Tribune on the condition of anonymity that currently the government had no data of Umrah pilgrims from Pakistan.
The country “also lacks an official platform to keep a track of Umrah pilgrims from the time they apply for visas to the time they return” to Pakistan, he added.
“There are many Umrah pilgrims who face immense difficulties while staying in Saudi Arabia, but there is no official department, except the consulate, to listen to and address their woes on an urgent basis. They have to wait for long hours to get their complaints registered and resolved,” he said.
The official further said that in the intending Umrah pilgrims “apply through private tour operators who have agents to complete the entire process” with no involvement of the government.
“If Umrah pilgrims find any difficulty in Saudi Arabia, they have no platform at the government level where they can directly register their complaints,” said the official.
Sharing the details, he said that after the 18th amendment, provincial tourism departments had been dealing with the Umrah pilgrims.
The official said that in order to deal with the issues related to Umrah, the Ministry of Religious Affairs had introduced a parliamentary bill aimed at regulating Hajj and Umrah services and paving the way for legal action against tour operators defrauding pilgrims.
“So far draft of the bill is in doldrums and if by any means this bill is passed, the Ministry of Religious Affairs will get a mandate to keep a track of Umrah pilgrim which is important for their security,” he said.