The Lahore High Court (LHC) has revoked the Hajj quota issued by the religious affairs ministry to private tour operators and has directed the ministry to reallocate it.
Through a short order on petitions against allocation of quota under Hajj Policy 2011, a full bench headed by LHC Chief Justice Ijaz Ahmad Chaudhry ruled that the clause in the new policy – which limits selection of Hajj Group Organisers (HGOs) to organisations which have provided services during last year’s Hajj or the ones preceding it – was illegal.
The bench observed that minutes of an agreement between the governments of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia did not confine the allocation of HGO quota only to those who have rendered services during Hajj 2010 and/or the preceding years. Therefore, there is no restriction on the Pakistani government, under the said agreement, to allow other qualified organisations to provide services during this year’s Hajj, the bench remarked.
“We do not find any grounds which allow the government to limit the allocation of HGO quota for Hajj 2011 to only such HGOs which have rendered services in Hajj 2010 or in the immediately preceding years,” the bench observed.
The bench also held that the government was duty bound to solicit, receive, consider and decide upon all applications for allocation of HGO quota by qualified organisations.
The government is duty-bound to ensure a competitive selection of HGOs in a fair and transparent manner and in accordance with the law, the bench observed.
Meerub Travel Tours (Pvt) Ltd, Travel Shop Limited and some other tour organisers had filed petitions alleging that the ministry of religious affairs allotted the Hajj quota to private tour operators on the basis of personal liking and political influence despite clear directions from superior courts to make the decision on basis of merit. The petitioners had stated that they had written to the ministry several times, asking it to provide a copy of the new Hajj policy but it was neither provided nor advertised.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 7th, 2011.
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