ISLAMABAD (Rahnuma) Ministers of both Saudi Arabia and Pakistan inked a new Hajj agreement in Saudi Arabia on Sunday increasing the pilgrimage quota for Pakistanis by 5000 over a requested 30,000 owing to the south Asian nation’s growing population.
Pakistan’s Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony, Pir Noor-ul-Haq Qadri, and Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah, Dr. Mohammad Saleh bin Taher Benten, signed the Hajj policy 2019 in the holy city of Makkah, Imran Siddiqui spokesman for the Ministry of Religious Affairs told Arab News.
Siddqui said, “the Saudi minister has promised to take Pakistan’s request to crown prince Muhammed bin Salman” and the approval for remaining quota of 25,000 is highly expected. Keeping in view the new census results of Pakistan’s 207 million population, increase in Hajj quota will be under consideration.
In a statement the spokesman added that next year, 189,210 Pakistanis will be able to perform Hajj. Pakistani pilgrims will get e-visas under the agreement however the waiver of SAR 2,000 visa charge will transpire after consultation with the King of Saudi Arabia.
There will be a phase wise inclusion of Pakistani pilgrims in the Road to Mecca project. Initially, 35,000 pilgrims from southern province of Sindh will benefit [from the program].
The program requires the vetting and immigration processes for pilgrims to take place at the Karachi airport.
Last year, Saudi Arabia had increased the quota by 15,000 for Pakistan to a total of 179,210 which ranks second in the top ten counties awarded Hajj visas quotas. Indonesia ranks highest with 221,000 as per statistics of 2017.
In February, the Ministry of Religious Affairs had requested the Kingdom to increase the total to 194,210 but the Kingdom declined and increased the pilgrim quota to 5,000 which allowed up to 184,210 to perform Hajj in 2018.
“Effort will be made to find accommodation for most Pakistanis in old Mina,” said the statement quoting minister Noorul Haq Qadri, who appreciated Saudi authorities for considering Pakistan’s recommendations.