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Event Title: Senator Moulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Religious Affairs and Inter-Faith Harmony presiding over a Meeting of the Committee at Parliament House Islamabad

Event Date: 2023-10-17

The Senate Standing Committee on Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony held a meeting at Parliament today, presided over by Senator Molana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri. The committee included distinguished members such as Senators Gurdeep Singh, Molvi Faiz Muhammad, Professor Sajid Mir, Naseebullah Bazai, Hafiz Abdul Karim, and Haji Hidayatullah. In attendance were also Additional Secretary of Religious Affairs, his team and other senior officials.

During the meeting, a thorough discussion took place concerning the reduction of Hajj group organizers from 905 to 46, following directives from the Saudi government relayed through the Ministry of Hajj. The officials informed that a letter in this regard has already been dispatched to the Ministry of Hajj, Saudi Arab, in light of the recommendation of the committee, urging a deferral of this reduction for the current year and a gradual reduction in subsequent years, adding that the Ministry eagerly awaits a response from the Saudi Ministry of Hajj.

Representatives from the Hajj Organizers Association of Pakistan were also present during the meeting. They emphasized the necessity for representatives of the Ministry of Religious Affairs to engage in a constructive dialogue with the DG Hajj and officials of the Saudi Ministry of Hajj to address their concerns. Expressing their lack of knowledge regarding the Hajj Policy for 2024, the Ministry of Religious Affairs clarified that ongoing discussions and policy sharing with the Hajj Organizers Association of Pakistan were in progress, attributing the communication gap as the reason for their lack of awareness.

The committee was informed that altering the Saudi Ministry of Hajj's decision to reduce the number of organizers seemed improbable.

Consequently, the Chairman Committee stressed the importance of being fully prepared for the upcoming Hajj arrangements.

Chairman Committee, Senator Molana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri emphasized the continuation of efforts by the Ministry of Religious Affairs to address the issue. He suggested engaging with the Saudi authorities to convey Pakistan's concerns and to request a reconsideration of their decision.

Following a thorough deliberation, it was decided that another letter would be penned to the Ministry of Religious Affairs, recommending the Caretaker Minister for Religious Affairs to engage with the Saudi counterpart to further advocate for Pakistan's position. In addition, the Ministry should urge DG Hajj to take serious steps with the concerns in KSA to resolve the issue. The committee sought a progress report on the matter in 15 days.

In a related update, senior officials from the Ministry of Religious Affairs informed the committee regarding Saudi authorities' approval to initiate the Road to Makkah project from Lahore and Karachi Airports, underlining the continued efforts to enhance Hajj facilitation. The Committee also suggested starting the Road to Makkah Project from Peshawar and Quetta.