Naheed Jahangir

PESHAWAR: The Ministry of Religious Affairs has proposed another hike of Rs115,000 in Hajj expenses for the year 2020 after which the total cost under government Hajj scheme will reach 550,000, making it impossible for many to perform the religious obligation this year.

“It seems that I will never be able to perform Hajj even this year due to increased expenses. Life is so uncertain, who knows who will be still alive next year,” said Fauzia, a 40-year-old schoolteacher, who is saving some money from her salary for the last five years to fulfil her wish of performing Hajj.

Fauzia told TNN that she could hardly save Rs400,000 during the last five years, but Hajj expenses have increased enormously.

In 2018, the government Hajj scheme expenses were Rs280,000, but expenses witnessed increase of Rs150,000 last year and a proposal of Rs115,000 hike is presented again this year.

Fauzia said she has still not lost her heart and God willing she will go for Hajj one day.

Sardar Khan, a resident of Peshawar, who was applying for Hajj for the last two years, was hoping that this year his name will be included without lucky draw, but the news about Rs115,000 increase in expenses has left him perturbed. Sardar Khan told TNN that now there is no use of his name coming into the list as he will not be able to arrange increased amount for going for Hajj.

Aqeela, a resident of Asia Gate in Peshawar, said she performs Hajj after every two years, but she is worried for other people who cannot perform the sacred religious obligation due to increasing expenses. She said the poor people save money throughout their lives to fulfil their dream of going for Hajj and when they arrange money, they come to know that the expenses have increased and now they will have to save more money and the process goes on. She said the government has made it very difficult for a common man to go for Hajj.

On the other hand, the government is of the view that Hajj is mandatory only for those who can afford it. The government says it has no resources to pay subsidy on Hajj expenses.

Religious scholar at Islamic Centre Peshawar Dr Rasheed Ahmed said the common man should not worry about increasing Hajj expenses as it is obligatory on only those persons who can afford it physically and financially. He said every Muslim disregarding his/her financial status has a dream of performing Hajj, but increase in expenses shatter their hopes. He said a welfare state is expected to facilitate its citizens for performing religious obligations.

Nadeem Khan, owner of a travel agency, said people will still apply for Hajj 2020 and full quota of 200,000 for Pakistan will be utilised despite enormous increase in expenses. However, he said, only upper middle and elite families will be able to go for Hajj and middle and lower middle class won’t be able to afford it.