ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Wednesday allowed the Ministry of Religious Affairs to carry out half of the balloting (50 per cent) of the total government Hajj quota applications and to provide the Saudi authorities the relevant details of the intending pilgrims from Pakistan for the Hajj this year.
In December last year, the cabinet approved the new Hajj policy for the year 2018 that allowed 67 per cent Hajj applications to be entertained through the government quota and 33 per cent through private tour operators .
From January 15 to January 24, this year, the Religious Affairs Ministry received a record 374,829 applications through the designated banks under the government quota scheme.
In a first, Pakistan to send trans persons as Hajj volunteers
The computerised balloting for the Hajj applicants was scheduled for January 26, but the Lahore High Court and the Sindh High Court stayed it after some private tour operators and other applicants challenged the private and government quotas ratio.
Hundreds of thousands of applicants have since been waiting for the balloting.
A total of 184,210 pilgrims will be selected to perform Hajj from Pakistan this year through the balloting after the Saudi government has increased Pakistan’s Hajj quota which would allow 5,000 more applicants to perform Hajj this year.
“After reviewing the current state of legal proceedings and the need to communicate maximum number of Hujjaj (pilgrims) to the Saudi authorities before March 3, 2018 to finalise flight schedules, the cabinet allowed the ministry to carry out balloting of 50 per cent of the total quota of Hajis for 2018, immediately,” the Prime Minister Office said after the cabinet meeting on Wednesday chaired by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.
The decision was taken after Religious Affairs Secretary Khalid Masood Chaudhry briefed the meeting on the progress on the Hajj arrangements for 2018.
The cabinet approved renaming the New Islamabad International Airport as ‘Islamabad International Airport’ after discussing the report of a committee constituted under the chairmanship of Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo on the matter, the PM Office said.
Other important decisions taken by the cabinet included review of the inquiry report into corruption charges in the Kachhi Canal project.
The cabinet decided to constitute a committee headed by Minister for Water Resources Syed Javed Ali Shah to suggest implementation mechanism of the findings of the report.
The cabinet approved signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination and the American Institute of Pakistan Studies, with a proviso that performance report of the institute for the last five years should be presented before the cabinet.
The cabinet approved the applicability of the Islamabad Rent Restriction Ordinance, 2001 to Zone V of Islamabad and directed the Interior Ministry to review the law. It also directed the ministry to place the case before the next meeting of the cabinet for applicability of law in the remaining areas of Islamabad.
Rejecting a proposal for increase in the prices of computerised national identity cards (CNICs) of specified categories, the cabinet directed the Ministry of Interior and the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) to review the proposal for rationalisation of the cost of the CNICs.
Ministry of religious affairs postpones Hajj balloting
Appointment of Aalia Neelum as the judge, Special Appellate Court under Section 46(1) of the Prevention of Smuggling Act, 1977, was approved by the cabinet.
Regarding the appointment of the Evacuee Trust Property Board chairman in compliance with the orders of the Supreme Court, the cabinet directed the Ministry of Religious Affairs to expedite framing of relevant rules in the light of directions of the court.
In the meantime, the cabinet approved a proposal for grant of additional charge of the ETPB to Senior Joint Secretary Muhammad Ashraf Lanjaar till the regular appointment is made.
Appointment of SA Manan as chairman of the board of management of the Pakistan State Oil Company Limited (PSOCL) was also approved. The cabinet also approved the execution of various development schemes prepared by the cabinet committee.