The death toll from one of the worst stampedes during Hajj pilgrimage has hit 1,100, among them 42 Pakistani pilgrims, officials confirmed on Monday. The revised tally came a day after Pakistan’s Religious Affairs Minister Sardar Yousaf told a news conference in Saudi Arabia that 36 Pakistanis were among the stampede victims.
However, the minister told the state-run Pakistan Television on Monday that 42 Pakistanis were killed and 62 were still missing. Of the 35 injured Pakistani pilgrims, 29 had been discharged after treatment, he added.
In response to a question, Sardar Yousaf said 14 deceased Pakistani pilgrims were buried in Saudi Arabia, in accordance with the Hajj policy. He said the helpline number 00966-593965613 may be contacted for information on Pakistani pilgrims. He claimed that all the helpline numbers were functioning.
Earlier, MNA Dr Tariq Fazal, who has been appointed by the PM’s Secretariat as the focal person for the Mina tragedy, told a news conference that the death toll from the Mina tragedy was 1,100. “The Pakistani embassy has uploaded the pictures of all the pilgrims who have lost their lives in the Mina incident to its website.”
Fazal informed the media that 36 of the missing Pakistanis went through private Hajj operators and the remaining through the Ministry of Religious Affairs. All-out efforts are under way to locate the missing Pakistani pilgrims, he said, adding that Pakistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia was visiting all hospitals and mortuaries to find them. “The PM’s Secretariat has the list of all the people who are missing, and will contact their families to keep them posted.”
Fazal said the premier has announced Rs500,000 for the heirs of each Pakistani stampede victims and Rs200,000 each for the survivors of the tragedy. “Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has also ordered that the injured pilgrims be provided with the best possible treatment at hospitals free of charge on their return to the country.”
He said the premier had also announced that the government would arrange free Umrah or Hajj for two to three family members of every deceased pilgrim.
Petition filed in SC
A constitutional petition seeking facts of the Hajj stampede has been filed in the Supreme Court. A citizen, Mahmood Akhtar Naqvi, requested that the government submit in the court a comprehensive report on the investigation into the deaths of 42 Pakistanis.
He also requested the report contain information on the government’s measures to facilitate the Pakistani pilgrims in the wake of the Mina tragedy. “The report should also contain information on similar stampedes in the past, about which we have remained clueless: 1,426 pilgrims died in 1990, 251 in 2004 and 346 in 2006,” he added. The petition cited a Sunday night TV programme, in which claims were made about the reasons that had led to the stampede. Naqvi requested the court direct the TV channel to submit the transcripts of the programme.
The petitioner pleaded the court summon the minister and secretary of the Ministry of Religious Affairs, the director general of Hajj and Auqaf, the director of Hajj, and Pakistan ambassador to Saudi Arabia, adding that their names be placed on the exit control list.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 29th, 2015.