ISLAMABAD: Over 50,000 Pakistanis who will be travelling to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj by July 25 would be deprived of their right to cast vote.
An official privy to the Hajj arrangements told The Express Tribune that currently no plan or a mechanism has been devised to facilitate intending Pakistani pilgrims who have or will be travelling to Saudi Arabia by elections day to cast their vote.
He said that the Hajj flight operation had started from July 14 and it is estimated that over 25,000-30,000 intending pilgrims under government scheme would fly to Saudi Arabia by the election day.
Meanwhile, same number of intending pilgrims performing hajj through private scheme will also be there.
“Though the federal government before announcing the election date already knew that intending pilgrims will start flying to Saudi Arabia by mid of July, their issue was not taken into consideration and no such arrangements had been made to facilitate them in this regard,” lamented the official.
In May this year a resolution was moved by Balochistan Home Minister Sarfaraz Bugti through which he demanded that the elections should be held in August instead of July.
Because “a majority of the public wants to undertake Hajj for which [many] would be travelling to Saudi Arabia in July” and hence, they would be unable to vote in the elections.
But this important point was ignored by the government and election date was announced.
“In a country like Pakistan where ‘every single vote counts’ this huge chunk of population cannot be ignored and measures should be taken to facilitate them [in the voting process] ,” stressed the official.
Election Commission of Pakistan spokesperson Altaf Ahmed said, “We have not received any such directions related to facilitating pilgrims for casting their votes.”
Meanwhile, according to the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony officials, since July 14 till date, 7,000 intending pilgrims under government Hajj scheme from across the country have reached Saudi Arabia through 40 hajj flights.
The Hajj flight operation will continue till August 15 this year.
Moreover, the intending pilgrims are being provided with proper accommodation, transport facilitation and three times quality food, the ministry adds.