PESHAWAR: The federal government has announced Hajj Policy for the year 2019 under which no subsidy has been given for the intending pilgrims that has raised the cost of Hajj in the north of country to Rs. 436,000 from Rs. 280,000 while in Southern areas the cost reached to Rs. 426,000 from 270,000. It is almost 60 percent raise in the Hajj expenses.

The federal cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday approved the Hajj Policy.

Addressing a press conference after the meeting, Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said as many as 184,000 Pakistani citizens will perform Hajj this year. He said for the first time direct flights from Quetta for Saudi Arabia will be arranged for intending pilgrims. He said the intending pilgrims from far off areas will be provided the facility of biometric verification in their areas.

Sources said intending pilgrims of over 80 years of age will be automatically qualified for Hajj this year without any lucky draw. Fawad Chaudhry said a quota of 10,000 has been specified for the elderly people, while a quota of 500 workers has also been specified.

Prime Minister Imran Khan said during the meeting that he will personally monitor arrangements for Hajj this year. He said no compromise will be made on facilities for the Hajj pilgrims.

According to the new policy, the Hajj expenses for southern areas of the country will be Rs426,000, which were Rs270,000 last year. Besides this Rs156,000 raise has been made in the Hajj expenses of northern areas taking it to a total of Rs436,000 from Rs280,000.

Media reports said the issue was discussed in detail. The finance ministry was of the view that the economic situation wasn’t favourable for the subsidy, while the ministry of religious affairs said the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) has ruled in favour of the subsidy. It said the government will face criticism if the subsidy was not given.

The finance ministry argued that Rs8.15 billion will have to be given as subsidy in government Hajj Scheme and if provided under private scheme, the financial burden will increase to Rs14 billion.

The cabinet also approved granting visa-on-arrival facilities to citizens of many countries. It expressed satisfaction over the briefing given by interior secretary concerning flexibility in the new visa policy. Fawad Chaudhry said citizens of 98 countries can take advantage of business visa facility.


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