“Pakistani Minister of Religious Affairs Announces 179,210 Pilgrims to Perform Hajj this Year, Citing High Costs due to Inflation and Currency Depreciation”
Minister Announces Hajj Policy 2023, Applications Accepted from March 16 to 31.
On March 11, 2023, the Minister for Religious Affairs, Mufti Abdul Shakoor, held a news conference to announce the Hajj Policy 2023 for Pakistani pilgrims.
According to the policy, applications for Hajj can be submitted from March 16 to March 31 in 14 designated banks. The balloting process for Hajj will be held on April 5 as per the schedule.
The minister also provided details about the estimated cost of Hajj and the Sponsorship Hajj Scheme.
The estimated cost of Hajj from the northern region, which includes Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, Multan, Faisalabad, Rahim Yar Khan, and Sialkot, is Rs1,175,000. The estimated cost for the Sponsorship Hajj Scheme (northern region) is approximately $4,325.
Meanwhile, the estimated cost of Hajj from the southern region, including Karachi, Quetta, and Sukkur, is Rs1,165,000, and the estimated cost for the Sponsorship Hajj Scheme (southern region) is approximately $4,285.
The minister assured that if there are any savings from the Hajj package, they would be refunded to the pilgrims through their bank accounts.
For the applicants of the Sponsorship Hajj Scheme who do not have bank accounts, the money will be provided in cash.
The minister explained that the cost of facilities had increased due to global inflation in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Additionally, the fall in the value of the Pakistani rupee had a significant impact on the Hajj package.
Mufti Abdul Shakoor also announced that Pakistani pilgrims will have access to train facilities this year in Mina, Muzdalifah, and Arafat. However, the pilgrims would have to bear the cost of this facility.
The Sponsorship Hajj Scheme was introduced this year for overseas Pakistanis to generate $194 million, while the ministry required a total of $284 million.
The Ministry of Finance had pledged to provide the remaining $90 million for the smooth functioning of the Hajj operation.
The quota for Hajj this year is 179,210 people, and it will be divided equally between the public and private Hajj schemes, respectively. 50% of the quota for both public and private Hajj schemes, i.e., 44,802 seats in each scheme, will be reserved for the Sponsorship Hajj Scheme.
The minister explained that the Sponsorship Hajj Scheme provided a special facility to those Hajj pilgrims who were seeking foreign exchange from abroad in the specific dollar account of the ministry.
Overseas Pakistanis will be exempted from the balloting process due to the remittance of the allocated dollars in this account for themselves or their relatives in Pakistan. However, depositing dollars from Pakistan is not allowed.
The quota for the Sponsorship Hajj Scheme will be provided on a “first come, first served” basis, which will be determined by the time and date of depositing the Hajj form in the bank.
The registration for the Sponsorship Hajj Scheme will be stopped once the specified quota is completed.
The minister also highlighted that there is no age limit for Pakistani pilgrims this year, as Saudi Arabia has removed the upper age limit of 65 years.