ISLAMABAD: The 'Road to Makkah' project commenced on Thursday after Saudi Airline flight took off from Islamabad International Airport this morning carrying 350 Hajj pilgrims to Madina.
Prime Minister Imran Khan will formally inaugurate the ‘Road to Makkah’ project on July 5 (tomorrow).
A small event was organised at the airport on this occasion which was attended by Saudi envoy and government officials. Minister for Religious Affairs Pir Noorul Haq Qadri and Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan see off the pilgrims at the airport.
Saudi officials had set up special counters where immigration and other formalities of the pilgrims were completed.
Speaking on the occasion, provincial Minister for religious Affairs Syed Saeedul Hassan said, “Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman has special love and affection for Pakistan, and he manifested this love through the ‘Road to Makkah’ project.”
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“Prime Minister Imran Khan played an important role by requesting the Saudi government to include Pakistan in the project,” said the aviation minister.
According to Spokesperson for Religious Affairs Ministry, Hajj flight operation from Karachi and Peshawar will begin on July 5. Pakistan International Airlines is also starting direct Hajj flights from Quetta this year. Pilgrims would also leave to Saudi Arabia from Sukkar, Multan, Rahim Yar Khan, Faisalabad and Sialkot.
Earlier, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi lauded Saudi Arabia for including Pakistan along with Malaysia, Indonesia and Tunis in its list of Hajj facilitation project ‘Road to Makkah’.
“Prime Minister Imran Khan had requested Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman during his visit to Islamabad to include Pakistan in the Road to Makkah project, which would facilitate around 225,000 Hajj pilgrims this year,” FM Qureshi had said in a statement.
‘Project for Hajj pilgrims’
Saudi Arabia Ambassador to Pakistan Nawaf Bin Said al Malki also addressed the ceremony at the Islamabad International Airport and said: “The project has been started to give the best facilities to Hajj pilgrims.”
The Saudi envoy also congratulated the government of Pakistan on commencing the project.
“This year, 225,000 Hajj pilgrims will perform Hajj. The ‘Road to Makkah’ is a project to serve the guests of Allah,” said the Saudi ambassador.
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'Road to Makkah' project
Under the project, the customs and immigration of over 90 per cent Hajj pilgrims would be completed at Pakistani airports before their departure for Hajj in order to save them from a wait of 10 to 12 hours at Saudi airports for immigration and customs clearance.
During a recent visit to Islamabad by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the premier had requested Saudi Arabia to include Pakistan in the project. Responding to the request, the Saudi authorities announced that immigration formalities for Hajj pilgrims would be performed in Pakistan instead of Saudi Arabia.
A Saudi delegation later visited Pakistan and held talks with Pakistani immigration and civil aviation officials before finalising arrangements for the project.