KARACHI: All those pilgrims who were intending to perform Hajj this year but missed their chance due to quota cuts will be given priority the next two years.
The Sindh High Court gave this ruling at a hearing on Friday.
“At issue is nothing less than the desire and intention of Pakistanis to perform Hajj pilgrimage this year,” observed Justice Muneeb Akhtar, head of the single bench, which gave the verdict. “The sad reality is, however, that this year many intending pilgrims will not be able to achieve their hearts’ desire.”
Accepting that some people will not be able to perform this religious obligation, Justice Muneeb gave a ruling that these people should be given special treatment in the next two years. The judges were hearing a number of lawsuits filed by the private Hajj tour operators, challenging the reduction in their quota of pilgrims for Hajj 2013 by the Pakistani religious affairs ministry following cuts in the country’s over all quota by the Saudi Arabian authorities.
Since performing Hajj at least once in life is an important religious obligation for those Muslims, who are resourceful and can afford, the religious affairs ministry tried to resolve the issue by devising a formula, under which the government would send 60 per cent of the total pilgrims to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj, while the remaining 40 per cent would be those applying through private operators.
The bench was informed that the pilgrims’ quota for government schemes is 89,605 while that of private Hajj tour operators is 53,533. The court ordered the religious affairs ministry to ensure that if the number of pilgrims under government schemes remains less than 89,605 then the remaining would be added from the tour operators’ quota. In case the number of pilgrims exceeds the quota fixed for the government, the additional pilgrims would be excluded but the tour operators’ quota will not be reduced.
The government was ordered to ensure that any person excluded should be given preferential treatment for Hajj 2014 or 2015, as they may choose, and under no circumstances would be charged any sum beyond what was payable in terms of Hajj Policy 2013. “Any differential shall be accounted for by the government,” said the judgment.
The religious affairs ministry is told to process applications from the tour operators till the last day of Ramazan.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 27th, 2013.
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