Pakistan Hajj Training Council (PHTC) has asked the government to ban private Hajj schemes to prevent pilgrims from being conned.
Addressing a conference in Swabi on Wednesday, PHTC Chairman Muhammad Hayat Khan and other office bearers asked Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Nasirul Mulk to take suo motu action against all tour operators who have scammed pilgrims between 2005 and 2014.
Khan claimed private Hajj schemes were introduced around 2005 by the then minister for religious affairs Ijazul Haq to serve his own personal interests. He estimated Karachi’s tour operators fleeced pilgrims of at least Rs70 million during the first year of the scheme’s operation. However, they managed to avoid punishment for committing fraud, added Khan.
According to the PHTC chairman, scams in private Hajj schemes have become particularly common because relevant authorities have not taken action against the tour operators. As a result, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims have lost their hard-earned money to these swindlers and have been unable to perform their religious pilgrimage. Khan urged the aggrieved pilgrims to take the matter to the Supreme Court as the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has failed to recover their money.
“Private Hajj schemes have failed in Pakistan because corruption remains rampant,” he said. “Such schemes can only operate successfully in countries where corruption does not exist.”
Khan pressed the government to ban such schemes and continue to promote the government Hajj scheme as it did in the past. He advised the government to make Hajj cheap and convenient for pilgrims. The government should cancel the licences of those companies whose performance is below par, said Khan.
He insisted the ministry of religious affairs should take steps to ensure no fraud is committed with those planning to go for the greater pilgrimage. Moreover, he urged the government to declare Zamzam and dates free from customs duty.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 23rd, 2014.
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