ISLAMABAD  - Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Noor-ul-Haq Qadri on Saturday urged those registering themselves for Hajj, 2020 under the government scheme to follow the standard operating procedures (SOPs) in banks where they would be refunded their amounts.

Talking to PTV News, he said the Ministry of Religious Affairs had announced that people who had registered for this year’s Hajj programme would be refunded their deposit, after the government cancelled this year’s Hajj due to concerns over COVID-19 transmission.

He said all successful Hajj applicants of the government scheme were being informed about payment of their amount via mobile phone messages and social media websites, adding this would be the first time that pilgrims from Pakistan will not be going to the holy sites for Hajj due to the unprecedented situation posed by the pandemic.

Noor-ul-Haq Qadri said the government had started refunding the amounts deposited by the applicants for Hajj immediately, without any deduction.

He said the ministry of Hajj had also issued SOPs on social distancing in all bank branches.

The minister said that Pakistan was timely informed by the Saudi government that no foreigner would travel to Mecca and Medina for Hajj this year.

He advised the applicants to visit the bank branches with all required original documents and receive their money back, adding the applicants who had any related inquiries could contact the ministry’s inquiry cell.

Qadri asked the applicants to visit only designated bank branches where they had deposited their money, adding, in case of cash refund, the presence of recipient in person was necessary.

If payment branch was closed, the refund would be made from other authorized branch of the same designated bank, he said.

The refund process from banks was started from 02-07-2020.

In case of any difficulty in the refund, citizens should contact the Accounts Officer Refund of the Ministry, he added.

Replying a Question, Noor-ul-Haq Qadri said that to facilitate the pilgrims in the next years Hajj, the government would formulate Hajj policy in mutual consultation with government of Saudi Arabia.