Unbelievable price hike in Government Hajj Scheme Expenditures
ISLAMABAD - The Government Hajj Scheme expenditures have become dearer by Rs156,975 owing to various reasons including increase in transport and devaluation of rupee, Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Secretary Mushtaq Ahmed Friday said. Briefing Senate Standing Committee on Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony, chaired by Senator Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, he said this year Government Hajj Scheme’s proposed package would be Rs436,975 for Northern and Rs426,975 for Southern regions of the country. A Haji would have to pay additional Rs19,451 for Qurbani. He said the proposed hajj package has been sent to federal cabinet for approval which has the authority to reduce the hajj package. He said airfares will be Rs100,000 for north and Rs110,000 for south as comparing to last year’s Rs 93,000 and 84,000 for northern and southern regions respectively. The committee directed the ministry to negotiate with airlines to reduce airfare. Ministry was also directed to explore possibilities of transporting Hujjaj to Saudi Arabia through normal commercial flights to reduce cost as chartered flights were comparatively expensive. He said 184,210 Pakistanis would perform Hajj this year including the additional quota of 5,000 granted by Saudi government. The additional quota and withdrawn quota of black listed HGOs would be distributed among new enlisted Hajj Group Organisers (HGOs). The overall quota of 800 enlisted HGOs would be 40 percent of total hajj quota allocated to Pakistan. Chairman Abdul Ghafoor Haideri directed the ministry to bound HGOs to keep their packages at lowest minimum level as some HGOs were offering packages up to Rs 600,000 to Rs1.6 million per private Haji. Secretary assured the committee to himself monitoring private Hajj packages. Yousaf Badeni asked the ministry to deploy one staffer with each HGOs for strict monitoring. Secretary said in new Hajj Policy the hardship quota was being reduced from 2 percent to 1.5 percent. An additional quota of 10,000 was being reserved to accommodate Hajj aspirants, who failed to secure a berth in last three consecutive attempts. Another 10,000 quota was being reserved to accommodate octogenarian Hajj aspirants without any balloting. Likewise another quota of 500 would be reserved by labourers or low paid employees of companies registered with Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution (EOBI). The secretary said various new initiatives have been introduced in the proposed new Hajj Policy including road to Makkah project, E-Visa, Uniform Baggage access of Pakistan, temporary Haji camp at Gilgit to facilitate local Hujjaj. Eitemad would conduct bio-metric of intending pilgrims at Gwadar, Skardu, Muzaffarabad. The committee directed to include in the list Khuzdar and Chitral to facilities Hujjaj. He said the ministry has propose to Saudi authorities to authorize four or five more companies to conduct bio metric verifications of Hujjaj. Currently Eitemad has monopoly over bio metric verification. Muhammad Yousaf Badini asked the ministry to give equal share of Hajj muavineed to Balochistan. The committee directed the ministry to waive off Rs2000 additional imposed on multiple Umrah performers. The secretary said the ministry has finalized a draft Hajj, Umrah Services Management Bill, 2019 to regulate Umrah.