The deadline for the submission of applications under the Sponsorship Hajj Scheme for the upcoming year ended on Sunday with a remarkably lower number of applicants.
The Pakistani government had extended the deadline for submission of applications till December 31st for the Sponsorship Scheme though the extension did not yield the intended results.
As per the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony, the government received merely around 3800 applications for the Sponsorship Scheme against the quota of 25,000 seats.
The sponsorship scheme was introduced by the government last year to permit overseas Pakistanis to apply for Hajj or sponsor someone in Pakistan by paying in US dollars with the benefit of no balloting for the spiritual journey.
Earlier on Thursday, the government conducted balloting for the regular Hajj applicants and selected 63,805 successful applicants who would be performing Hajj in 2024.
The government has also negated any chances of an extension in the deadline for the Sponsorship Hajj scheme as confirmed by Muhammad Umer Butt, a spokesperson for the religious affairs ministry.
“The total quota this year is 25,000 while we have received 3,840 applications so far, with many in the pipeline awaiting confirmation from banks after receiving payments,” he said but added that people could still apply online until midnight on Sunday.
“The exact figure will be clear next week, and any remaining unutilized quota will be returned to Saudi Arabia, as announced by the government,” he was quoted as saying by Arab News.
The government had initially set December 12th as the deadline which was extended till December 22nd for the regular Hajj scheme. To attract the applicants, the government had also permitted those who had performed Hajj in the last 5 years to apply for the upcoming Hajj.
The authorities have introduced the Short Hajj package for the pilgrims while the Sponsorship Scheme is also valid for this year as well.
As far as the Long Hajj is concerned, it would encompass 38-42 days with 8 days stay in Medinah and those flying from the South region i.e. Karachi, and Sukkhur would have to pay Rs 10,65,000 while those from other cities i.e. Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, Multan, Sialkot, Faisalabad would pay Rs 10,75,000.
For Sponsorship scheme applicants, the cost is $3765 for the South Region while it is $ 3800 for the North Region for those opting for the Long Hajj package.
For the Short Hajj package, the cost for regular Hajj applicants is Rs 11,40,000 for the South region while the cost is Rs 11,50,000 for the North region; the Hajj would continue for 20-25 days under this scheme.
For the Sponsorship Scheme, the cost for Short Hajj is $ 4015 USD for the South region and $ 4050 for North region.