Pakistani pilgrims face a big setback from Saudi Arabia
Hundreds of thousands of Pakistani pilgrims will not be able to travel to Saudi Arabia this year after Saudi authorities extended restrictions on travellers from 20 countries, including Pakistan.
A large number of Umrah pilgrims from Pakistan travel to Saudi Arabia every year but the number is limited for over a year due to phased restrictions on international flights.
According to official figures, the number of Umrah pilgrims leaving Pakistan in 2019 was more than 2 million, while in 2018 it was close to 1.7 million.
It may be recalled that on February 27, 2020, the Saudi authorities announced a temporary ban on the entry of foreign Umrah pilgrims.
From November 2020, foreign Umrah pilgrims were allowed to enter the country on a limited scale with Coronavirus SOPs.
It should be noted that from February 3, 2021, due to the increase in corona cases, the Saudi authorities once again banned visitors from 20 countries, including Pakistan, which has been extended until May 17.
Like last year, this year too, Pakistan’s state-owned airline PIA has suffered severe financial losses due to air sanctions.
According to a PIA spokesperson, “the national carrier collects Rs 35 billion in revenue from Hajj and Umrah, but for the past one year, the company has suffered heavy financial losses due to limited flights for Umrah.”
PIA spokesman Abdullah Hafeez said that “every year during Ramadan, the number of special flights for Umrah pilgrims is increased because the number of pilgrims during Ramadan has increased dramatically, but this year as well as last year.” Flights for Umrah are closed in Ramadan.
“The PIA had also introduced a special package for Umrah to allow limited Umrah, but the number of visitors has been lower than usual due to the coronavirus,” he said.