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Pakistan and Saudi Arabia Collaborate on Road to Makkah Project, Enhancing Hajj Pilgrimage Experience

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In a significant development, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have entered into an agreement to initiate the Road to Makkah project, which aims to streamline immigration and customs procedures for Hajj pilgrims. The Memorandum of Understanding was signed during a ceremony held at the Prime Minister’s House, attended by Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and the Deputy Interior Minister of Saudi Arabia, Dr. Nasir bin Abdul Aziz Al-Dawood.

The agreement, signed by Minister for Interior Rana Sanaullah and the Saudi minister, seeks to provide enhanced immigration facilities for Pakistani Hajj pilgrims within Pakistan itself, thus exempting them from certain processes at Saudi airports during the Hajj season in 2023. The initial implementation of this service will be carried out at the Islamabad International Airport, benefiting approximately 26,000 pilgrims. Furthermore, the Saudi minister has assured that the facility will be extended to airports in Karachi and Lahore, ensuring a more seamless pilgrimage experience for Pakistani Hajj travelers.

In addition to the Road to Makkah project, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have also signed joint minutes of the meeting, focusing on the issuance of Pakistani passports to Burmese Muslims residing in Saudi Arabia on Pakistani passports. Since 2012, the renewal of passports for Burmese Muslims has posed challenges, affecting their legal status in the kingdom. Under the new arrangement, Burmese Muslims and their children will be issued passports to improve their legal standing in Saudi Arabia. A bilateral committee comprising representatives from both countries will be established to expedite the issuance of necessary documents for Burmese Muslims.

Following the signing ceremony, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif presented a commemorative gift to the Saudi dignitary, who reciprocated the gesture by presenting a memento to the prime minister. Additionally, the Deputy Interior Minister of Saudi Arabia, Dr. Nasir bin Abdul Aziz Al-Dawood, held a separate meeting with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, during which the prime minister expressed gratitude for Saudi Arabia’s support during the floods that affected Pakistan and for assisting in the evacuation of stranded Pakistanis in Sudan. Prime Minister Shehbaz also commended the recent Saudi-Iran agreements to normalize ties, expressing hope that this development would contribute to regional peace and security.

In his remarks, the Saudi minister conveyed his appreciation for the warm hospitality extended by Pakistan and acknowledged the deep-rooted historical ties between the two brotherly nations. He expressed satisfaction with the productive meetings held with various Pakistani ministers, including those responsible for Interior, Religious Affairs, and Narcotics Control.

The Road to Makkah project signifies a significant step forward in facilitating the Hajj pilgrimage for Pakistani travelers, streamlining immigration processes, and creating a more convenient and efficient experience. This collaboration between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia underscores the strong bilateral relations and shared commitment to promoting religious tourism and facilitating the spiritual journey of Muslim pilgrims.

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