Senate Standing Committee on Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony on Tuesday urged the government to grant subsidy on Hajj to reduce the expenditures and costs pilgrims had been paying.
The meeting, chaired by Senator Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri here at the Parliament House, reviewed in detail the increase in Hajj quota of new Hajj Group Organizers (HGOs) of Balochistan, besides existing Hajj policy and issues related to Hajj.
The committee chairman said the meeting had called in emergency to address the grievances and issues of Hajj quota of Balochistan’s HGOs.
He said he had also written a letter to the Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani requesting him to resolve their issues amicably.
Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Ministry’s Additional Secretary Aftab Akbar Durrani, while briefing the committee, said the quotas allotted to HGOs were on merit.
He said usually the Hajj policy was approved in December or January every year but this time, the Saudi government had approved the quota of 81,132 pilgrims just one and half month before the Hajj, out of which 40 percent would perform religious obligation under Government Hajj Scheme and 60 percent through Private Hajj Operators.
He said the announcement of mandatory Hajj expenses was the most important thing that was made by the Saudi government just two days ago. There were three types of expenses which were determined by the Saudi government, Director General Hajj and the Religious Affairs Ministry, he added.
Durrani said the bulk of the cost was to be borne by the Saudi government, which was agreed on Sunday evening.
The Religious Affairs Ministry had prepared a summary and sent it to the Federal Cabinet for approval, he said, adding that due to time constraints, the Hajj applications were received by May 13 and held Hajj balloting by May 16.
Hajj quota had distributed among 801 private companies out of which 64 belonged to Balochistan, he added.
Durrani said in 2019, there were 102 new quota holder companies. The number of newly registered companies was 2,907 out of which 311 belonged to Balochistan, he said adding but in 2019, there was none new quota holder company from Balochistan that was why; at present there was no new quota holder company from Balochistan.
According to the report of Draft Audit Firm, out of 311 new companies of Balochistan, 194 had disqualified and 117 had declared eligible, he added.
He said the ministry had received complaints from Balochistan’s companies on the report of Draft Audit Firm which were being reviewed thoroughly.
Durrani informed the committee that the quota was awarded to the highest scoring companies on the basis of seniority. That is why new HGO from Balochistan with low ratings in 2019 could not get quota.
Committee Chairman Senator Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri said many people were complaining that they had obtained license since 2005 but could not get quota yet.
The committee was told that the companies which failed to meet all the legal requirements were not given quota as the quota was awarded in accordance with the order of the Supreme Court on the basis of transparency and merit.
To a query, the committee chairman was informed that the current year Hajj expenses would be up to Rs 850,000.
Maulana Haideri said the government should provide subsidy for the pilgrims so that the Hajj expenses could significantly be reduced and they could be benefited like neighbor countries.
The meeting was attended by senators Gardeep Singh, Haji Hidayatullah and Maulvi Faiz Mohammad besides senior officials of the Religious Affairs Ministry.
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