Meeting of Senate Standing Committee on Religious Affairs and Inter-Faith Harmony was held here at Parliament House on Monday with Senator Molana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri in Chair.
The Senate Committee deliberated on the recent letter written by Saudi Arabia, proposing to reduce the number of Hajj Operators of Pakistan from 905 to 46. Caretaker Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Inter-Faith Harmony, Aneeq Ahmed, stated that the Saudi Arabia intends to provide better facilities to Pilgrims, and in this regard, the letter has been sent to all Muslim Countries. The Committee recommended that exception should be provided to Hajj Operators for the year 2024 and the proposed number of operators by the Saudi Government should be increased to 100.
The Senate body was briefed by the ministry on the recent Hajj in 2023. Officials apprised that Hajj quota for the year 2023 was 179,210, divided equally between the government and private sectors. The cost of Hajj for the North region was Rs. 11,75,000 and for the South region, it was Rs.11,65,00. However, an average refund of Rs.97,00 to Rs.132,00 was issued to each Haji upon their return from Hajj. Officials further added that around 21,244 complaints relating to food, accomodation and transportation were received during the 2023 Hajj, and fortunately, all the complaints have been resolved.
Furthermore, the committee was informed about the ministry preparations for the 2024 Hajj. Caretaker Federal Minister for Religious Affairs stated that the Ministry is aiming to introduce Suitcases with QR code and designed scarves for females for the year 2024, to easily identify Hujjaj from Pakistan. He further added that the ministry with the collaboration of Saudi Government is planning to introduce a Short time period for the Hajj. The Chairman Committee directed that the training sessions should also be arranged for Hujjaj to instill the sense of discipline and cleanliness among the Pilgrims.
While discussing the Road to Makkah Project, Aneeq Ahmed, Caretaker Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Inter-Faith Harmony, stated that ministry is in negotiation with Saudi Government to extend Road to Makkah Project currently available at Islamabad International airport, and with due course of time the same service will also be available at Karachi and Lahore. He further remarked that expansion aims to facilitate more Haji's through the Project.
The meeting was attended by Senator Gurdeep Singh, Senator Molvi Faiz Muhammad, Senator Anwar Lal Dean, Senator Prof. Sajid Mir, Senator Naseebullah Bazai, Senator Hafiz Abdul Karim, Senator Haji Hidayatullah Khan, Caretaker Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Inter-Faith Harmony Aneeq Ahmed and other senior officers of the ministry were also in attendance.