ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Saudi Arabia on Tuesday opened their talks for facilitating the Pakistani pilgrims for their Hajj journey and held a threadbare discussion on preparations to include Pakistan in the kingdom’s ‘Road to Makkah Project’.
During a high-level meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office, between a 14-member Saudi delegation and officials from the ministry of religious affairs and interfaith harmony, both sides agreed to the provision of optimum and hassle-free facilities to Pakistani pilgrims.
Prime Minister’s Adviser on Establishment and Coordinator for Hajj Operation Mohammad Shehzad Arbab led the Pakistani side, while Saudi delegation was led by Director General Immigration Maj-Gen ral Sulaiman Al Yahya. Saudi ambassador Nawaf Al Malki was also present.
During the meeting, Arbab thanked the Saudi authorities for extending the ‘Road to Makkah Project’ to Pakistan and termed it a great facility for the Pakistani pilgrims. Under this project, Pakistani pilgrims would now have immigration clearance done at Pakistani airports, he added.
Saudi team arrives for talks on 'Road to Makkah' project
The adviser requested the Saudi delegation to consider more than one airport for pre-departure immigration facility. He asked the authorities concerned to make all-out arrangements for making the ‘Road to Makkah Project’ successful and fulfil all the requirements of the Saudi authorities.
The delegation expressed satisfaction over the arrangements made by Pakistan regarding the ‘Road to Makkah Project’. The delegation said that ‘Road to Makkah’ facility was a gift to the people of Pakistan from the custodian of two holy mosques King Salman.
Representatives of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Civil Aviation Authority, Customs, Anti-Narcotics Force, FIA and the airlines concerned also participated in the discussions. It was agreed that the luggage of pilgrims would be directly sent to their respective residences.
Earlier, Religious Affairs Ministry Secretary Mushtaq Ahmed informed the Saudi delegation that Pakistan's total Hajj quota for this year was 184,210–107,526 under the government scheme and 76,684 under private scheme.
The secretary said that the pilgrims under the government hajj scheme were being imparted comprehensive training in three phases on Hajj rituals and the Saudi laws to enable them to perform the religious obligation in a hassle-free environment.
With over 1.1 million pilgrims Pakistan tops countries in performing Umrah
He said Ministry would send 1,790 Moavineen-e-Hujjaj, including 552 medical missions to provide medical aid to pilgrims. “The ministry has hired 200 buildings to provide resident facilities to the pilgrims,” the secretary said, adding that the government has hired catering companies to provide food to Pakistani pilgrims in Makkah and Medina.
Ahmad said that steps had been taken to provide mobile biometric services to the people from the far-flung areas. He informed the delegation that three airlines–Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), Air Blue and Saudi Airline–had been tasked to carry pilgrims to Saudi Arabia.
Representatives of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Civil Aviation Authority, Customs, Anti-Narcotics Force, FIA and the airlines concerned also participated in the meeting. The representatives from both the countries also held group discussions about the facilities being offered to pilgrims.
The Saudi delegation is in Pakistan for three days to monitor and finalize the ‘Road to Makkah Project’. The Saudi delegation will visit Islamabad International Airport on Wednesday to review arrangement for immigration of Hujjaj.