Pakistan’s Minister for Religious Affairs Talha Mahmood says the country is making preparations for next year’s Hajj pilgrimage and exploring “cost-effective” travel options by land and sea.
Saudi Arabia this year reinstated Pakistan’s pre-pandemic Hajj quota of 179,210 pilgrims and scrapped the upper age limit of 65 in January. More than 160,000 Pakistani pilgrims performed the pilgrimage this year which fell on June 26.
A special flight operation to bring back Pakistani pilgrims is still underway and will conclude on August 2.
“Fortunately, we already know our quota for next year, allowing us for advanced preparations and more cost-effective travel options, such as traveling by ship or road, which will make Hajj more affordable for pilgrims,” Mahmood said at a Hajj seminar in Islamabad on Wednesday.
Speaking about Saudi Arabia’s Makkah Route Initiative under which Hajj pilgrims go through immigration facilities at airports in their respective countries, Mahmood said he was hopeful the program would be expanded to Lahore and Karachi next year, “which will further enhance the Hajj experience for Pakistani pilgrims.”
This year, the program was implemented in Islamabad.
Speaking to Arab News on the sidelines of the seminar, the minister said he had instructed Pakistan’s Director General of Hajj to return to Pakistan with the last Hajj flight to start preparations for next year’s pilgrimage.
“We aim to create policies that make Hajj more affordable for people and provide them with better facilities as this is the first time we have started working immediately after Hajj,” the minister said.
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