The Pakistan Senate Standing Committee on Religious Affairs rejected on Monday a proposal from Saudi authorities to reduce the number of Haj operators from 905 to 46, starting this year.
The committee was informed about a recent letter from Saudi Arabia, which suggested the reduction in the number of Haj operators for Pakistan.
Briefing the meeting, the caretaker Minister for Religious Affairs and Inter-Faith Harmony Aneeq Ahmed stated that Saudi Arabia intends to provide improved facilities to pilgrims, and in this regard, a letter has been sent to all Muslim countries.
However, after discussions, Senate Committee Chairman Senator Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri recommended that an exception should be made for Haj operators for the year 2024.
Plans QR-coded suitcases, special scarves for women pilgrims in Haj 2024
He suggested that the proposed number of operators by the Saudi government should be increased to 100.
The committee was briefed on the ministry’s preparations for the 2024 Haj.
During the discussion of the Road to Makkah Project, Mr Ahmed mentioned that the ministry is in negotiations with the Saudi government to expand the Road to Makkah Project, which is currently available at Islamabad airport, to Karachi and Lahore.
He further commented that the expansion is intended to accommodate more Hajis through the project.
The caretaker minister also stated that the ministry aims to introduce suitcases with QR codes and specially designed scarves for females in 2024, making it easier to identify Haj pilgrims from Pakistan.
The Senate body received a briefing from the ministry regarding the recent Haj in 2023. Officials reported that the Haj quota for 2023 was 179,210, with an equal division between the government and private sectors.
Officials informed the committee that 21,244 complaints related to food, accommodation and transportation were received during the 2023 Haj, and all of these issues were resolved.
Senator Haideri directed that training sessions should also be arranged for Hajis to instill a sense of discipline and cleanliness among the pilgrims.
The meeting was attended by Senators Gurdeep Singh, Maulvi Faiz Muhammad, Anwar Lal Dean, Prof Sajid Mir, Naseebullah Bazai, Hafiz Abdul Karim, and Haji Hidayatullah Khan.
Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2023
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