The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet of Pakistan has refused to grant exemption from taxes and duties on technical equipment to be imported for installation on four airports under the ‘Road to Makkah’ project initiative until the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) gives its consent, well-informed sources told Business Recorder.
The country’s Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony said the ‘Road to Makkah’ initiative was a hallmark of the Hajj Operations in 2019 in which completion of all immigration and customs requirements were conducted at airports of origin, which saved precious time of the Hujjaj, throughout the country.
About 22,000 Hujjaj benefited from the said pilot project while travelling from Islamabad International Airport to Saudi Arabia for performing Hajj under the government scheme.
After successful completion of the Hajj Operations 2019, the Prime Minister approved, in principle, for the implementation of the said project, in next year’s Hajj, to other four airports – Karachi; Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta.
Accordingly, the Ministry approached M/o Hajj and Umrah, Saudi Arabia, through Ministry of Foreign Affairs for “scaling up of “Road to Makkah“, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hajj 2020 was cancelled by KSA for international pilgrims.
The KSA authorities shared a pre-condition for scaling up of ‘Road to Makkah’ initiative for other stations through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Islamabad. The pre-conditions were shared with all stakeholders Ministries / Divisions / Departments for their input.
In this regard, a meeting was also convened on October 07, 2020, wherein all the stakeholders showed their readiness and willingness to provide all required services for this project.
Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony further stated that in addition to this, FBR conveyed that approval of ECC/Cabinet would be required for grant of special exemption on the airports of technical equipments in Pakistan by the Saudi authorities, in light of Section 20 of the Customs Act, 1969, withdrawn from the FBR vide Finance Act No. V of 2015. Recently, the Director General (Hajj), Jeddah, had informed that, due to COVID-19, the scenario had been changed and scaling up of ‘Road to Makkah’ project was expected to be extended to at least two more cities – Karachi and Lahore – subject to the approval of the Royal Council of Saudi Arabia.
Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony requested the ECC to allow FBR to grant a special exemption on the import of technical equipments in Pakistan by the Saudi authorities. After a discussion on the proposal, the ECC directed Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony to resubmit a summary with revised proposal after consultation with FBR.
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