‘No free Hajj or Umrah in State of Madina’

PESHAWAR: Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri has said there is even no free Hajj or Umrah in the State of Madina and the officials of Saudi Arabia are planning to gradually shift Hajj arrangements to private sector.

In an interview, the minister said the plan of the Saudi officials will have to be implemented and there will be no change in Hajj charges. He said the proposal of Hajj subsidy was brought before the cabinet meeting. He said some of the members supported the subsidy, but ultimately it was decided not to give subsidy.

Noorul Haq Qadri said Prime Minister Imran Khan was of the view that it will not be proper to give subsidy keeping in view the poor state of the national economy. He said the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government gave subsidy on Hajj last year. He said the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) had declared the subsidy permissible and recommended its gradual removal.

The minister said the government in Saudi Arabia had increased Hajj expenses for the whole world. He said the Pakistan government will not request the Saudi government to reduce Hajj expenses. He said there is no plan to ask the Saudi Crown Prince to reduce Hajj expenses for Pakistani pilgrims.

He said the Saudi officials are planning to sift the Hajj operation to private sector gradually.

Currently, the government is facing immense criticism from different quarters for increasing the Hajj rates. The critics are of the view that when the government is already giving subsidy of billions of rupees in other sector, then what is wrong in given subsidy on Hajj.

The government on the other hand says it cannot afford subsidy due to weak economic condition of the country. The supporters of the government’s move argue that Hajj is an obligation which is mandatory only if a Muslim can afford all charges, so the issue of subsidy must not be blown out of proportion.

Media reports said the private Hajj tour operators have prepared a low-cost Hajj package after which the pilgrimage through private scheme will cost less than the government-sponsored scheme.

As many as 184,210 Pakistanis will perform Hajj this year. The government has 60 percent quota, while the private tour operators have the quota of sending 40 percent intending pilgrims.

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