ISLAMABAD: The Federal Cabinet approved Hajj Policy-2020 under which 179,210 pilgrims would perform Hajj this year.
Minister for Religious Affairs Noor-ul-Haq Qadri addressing a news conference along with Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan in Islamabad said around 107,000 pilgrims will perform Hajj under government while remaining under the private scheme.
The Minister said the Hajj package through government scheme would be 490,000 rupees for intending pilgrims from northern region and 480,000 rupees from southern region of the country.
He said increase in Hajj package was mainly due to surge in airline fares of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and Saudi Airline, depreciation of Pakistani currency and extra arrangements in Mina etcetera.
Noor-ul-Haq said the Saudi government levied an additional fee of 300 riyals for each Hajj visa and 110 riyals for mandatory health insurance for all intending pilgrims from the world. Similarly, the cost of residence in Makkah and fare of buses and trains have also gone up, he added.
He said the government reimbursed Rs5.50 billion to the pilgrims last year and efforts were being made to minimize the burden on intending pilgrims this year.
He said around 22,000 Pakistanis pilgrims benefited from Road to Makkah project in Islamabad last year and this year talks were underway to extend it to Lahore, Peshawar, Karachi and Quetta.
He said 70-year old and above pilgrims would be sent without balloting this year adding 1,000 quota was also allocated for overseas Pakistanis who wished to perform Hajj with their relatives.
A joint working office would be set up with Saudi Hajj Ministry for prompt redressal of pilgrims issues.
He said direct flights from Quetta to Jaddah and Madina would also be operated this year while temporary Hajji camp for pilgrims of Gilgit-Baltistan would be established for their convenience.
The minister said biometric and mobile biometric centres would also be set up on the recommendations of the parliamentarians in far flung areas of the country to facilitate the intending pilgrims.