25,000 Pakistani pilgrims to get Saudi payout

Kazmi announces return of rent money to Pakistani pilgrims who faced problems during stay in Saudi Arabia.

Agencies November 22, 2010

Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Hamid Saeed Kazmi has announced that the Saudi Hajj ministry would compensate Pakistani pilgrims who were deprived of housing facilities at Mina.

In interviews aired by the BBC  and some local television channels after holding a meeting with Saudi Hajj Minister Fawadul Farsi, Kazmi said the 25,000 affected Pakistani pilgrims would be offered a compensatory sum of 250 riyals each. Kazmi said the Saudi government would release the money through cheques  within the next two days.

The Saudi minister was quoted as saying that he wanted to pay the money as a token of love for Pakistani pilgrims. Beyond that, the Saudi minister said that he wanted to see relations between Islamabad and Riyadh to  grow as well as leave the image of his country untarnished in the minds of the Pakistani people.

Kazmi has extended his stay for two more days in the kingdom at the request of the Saudi Hajj minister to monitor the distribution of money. The friendship and ties between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are time-tested and long-lasting, according to him. He said the Saudi government is not paying the money as compensation or a fine but for spreading goodwill among Pakistani people.

Kazmi avoided shifting the responsibility of mismanagement onto the Saudi authorities, saying it was the fault of the Saudi contractors.

Due to arrive on Tuesday, the religious affairs minister  has important documents and proofs regarding serious irregularities in the Hajj arrangements. He said that all those involved in jeopardising the Hajj operations with the connivance of a political lobby have been singled out and he would be handing over the information to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, President Asif Ali Zardari, Interior Minister Rehman Malik and investigative departments for strict action. “It is time to act as a strict minister and deliver strong penalties showing no leniency,” he added.

Calls for removal

In Mansehra, Science and Technology Minister Azam Khan Swati launched a frontal attack on Hamid Saeed Kazimi and called for his removal from the cabinet on grounds of “looting thousands of pilgrims”. He said the prime minister should punish the federal minister for religious affairs instead of the Hajj director. He said that a joint committee of the Senate and the National Assembly had visited Saudi Arabia a few months back and had brought evidence of corruption in Hajj arrangements. He said the evidence was handed over to the prime minister. “Depriving the poor Hajis is a proof of the corruption by the federal minister … no officer can think of any corruption without the consent of the minster of religious affairs.”

In his defence Kazmi said that the burden of proof lay with Azam Swati and he invited his cabinet colleague to come up with some hard evidence implicating him in the scandal.  “There has been a long history of conspiracies against me,” he said. He said that it was not a few months ago but during September when the hiring committee visited Saudi Arabia and conducted investigations and then compiled a report and submitted the same.

(With additional input from our correspondent)

Published in The Express Tribune, November 22nd, 2010.


Syed | 11 years ago | Reply Absolutly it is the failure of Hajj dept of Pakistan... Dnt blame SA...They should have ensured that all facilities to pakistani people are proper... Shame on Hajj dept for its incompetency...
Hafiz shah Ali | 11 years ago | Reply What are we as a nation: a beggers bowl. All we do is go out and ask for money. For God's sake have pitty on this country,it's people ,it's reputation. The great people of Saudi Arabia are our brothers our greatest friends.Let us not push their love too much.Please. Get the money from the Hajj department of Pakistan,the secretary religious affairs and off course our Minister of Religious affairs
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