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The Caretaker Federal Minister for Religious Affairs, Dr Aneeq Ahmed, declared a significant reduction of Rs0.1 million in government expenses for Hajj on Wednesday. Dr Ahmed reassured the public that this cost-cutting initiative would not compromise the quality of facilities provided to pilgrims, marking a milestone in making the sacred journey more accessible for Pakistani citizens.
Of notable significance is the provision allowing pilgrims a 30kg suitcase each, coupled with an unprecedented offering for female pilgrims – scarves (Abaya) adorned with the national flag. These enhancements aim to elevate the overall experience for Hajj participants.
Speaking at the Haji Camp Karachi, Dr Ahmed introduced a revolutionary mobile application designed to assist pilgrims throughout their journey. The app, available in English and Urdu initially, will later incorporate various regional languages, providing navigation support and enabling continuous communication between pilgrims and relevant officials.
Additionally, the integration of Islamabad and Karachi into Saudi Arabia’s Road to Makkah project was unveiled, streamlining the immigration process for Hujjaj departing from Karachi airport. This strategic integration promises a smoother and more efficient journey for pilgrims, aligning with the government’s commitment to enhancing the overall Hajj process.
In a bid to make Hajj more financially accessible, the government introduced a 20-day short Hajj package, addressing the economic challenges faced by citizens. Furthermore, efforts are underway to accommodate Pakistani Hujjaj in tents at Old Mina, acknowledging the logistical challenges associated with the distance to New Mina.
Disclosing the allocation of Hajj seats, Dr Ahmed revealed that Pakistan has secured 179,000 seats, with half reserved for private Hajj operators. The Ministry of Religious Affairs will actively oversee these operators to ensure the well-being of pilgrims, holding the ministry accountable for any issues encountered by those opting for private Hajj arrangements.
Acknowledging the ongoing renovation work at the Haji Camp Karachi building, Dr Ahmed emphasized the government’s commitment to continually enhance pilgrimage facilities, ensuring a comfortable and secure environment for all participants.
In addressing concerns about expenses, Dr Ahmed clarified that the announced package excludes Qurbani (sacrifice) expenses during the Hajj. Moreover, pilgrims choosing a shorter stay in Medina will enjoy an additional reduction of Rs35,000 in Hajj expenses, further illustrating the government’s dedication to minimizing financial burdens associated with the pilgrimage.
This comprehensive initiative, aimed at optimizing the Hajj experience, signifies a new era in pilgrimage facilitation and affordability, aligning with the broader goal of promoting inclusivity in this sacred journey.