New Saudi directives for Umrah pilgrims put Pakistanis in trouble

New Saudi directives for Umrah pilgrims put Pakistanis in trouble

ISLAMABAD: A delegation of travel agents demanded that Pakistani authorities take up the recent directive of Saudi Arabia, of conducting biometric verification tests of  umrah aspirants from Pakistan, with the Saudi government.

The delegation from a local travel agents association visited Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry and said that Saudi Arabia has made biometric verification mandatory for Pakistani  umrah aspirants, which has created a lot of problems for them. They called upon the Pakistani authorities to take up this issue with Saudi Arabia for its urgent withdrawal.

The delegation members said that the new  umrah policy of Saudi Arabia has made it compulsory for Pakistani citizens to get themselves biometrically verified from designated verification centres if they wish to apply for  umrah. They added that the centres providing biometric verification services were located only in federal and provincial capitals and, therefore, makes it extremely troublesome for  umrah aspirants from all over the country to go to these centres. Under the new directive,  umrah aspirants will have to wait for long hours to get biometrically verified, they said.

The delegation added further that applicants have to wait for days to receive their verification results, and had to pay fees worth Rs600 to Rs700 to get verified. Moreover, the centres are ill-staffed and ill-equipped with problems like poor seating arrangements creating problems, especially for the elderly.

The delegation demanded that the government took up the issue with the Saudi authorities and press for the order’s urgent redress.

Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Sheikh Amir Waheed responded that large a number of people were planning to go for  umrah during winter and the new visa policy would certainly cause them great inconvenience. He called upon the Saudi authorities to reconsider the condition of biometric verification for Pakistani  umrah aspirants.

He further said that in case the biometric verification was essential, authority should be given to National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to carry out the verification process since NADRA offices were much better distributed across urban and rural areas of the country. He called upon the authorities at Pakistan to intervene in this matter and devise a workable solution to the problem.