ISLAMABAD - The high cost of Hajj seems to have excluded many Pakistanis from the annual religious gathering this year.

The number of applicants for the Hajj-2019 has declined by 42 percent as compared to the year 2018 and the high expenditures may have been one of the reasons for the same, according to the officials.

This year the intending pilgrims have paid over Rs150,000 more than the amount the Hujjaj had paid as expenditures in year 2018. March 9 (Saturday) was the last day for submission of applications and, according to the official figures, 216,623 Pakistanis submitted their applications for the Hajj-2019, 42 percent less than the number of applicants in year 2018. Around 374,000 Pakistanis had applied for Hajj-2018.

As per the Hajj Policy-2019, as many as 184,210 will perform Hajj this year including 40 percent of total through Private Hajj Scheme

 

and 60 percent through government scheme. The additional 5,000 quota would be distributed among newly enrolled Hajj Group Organisers.

On the request of banks, the balloting for the Government Hajj Scheme was delayed by a day. It will now take place on March 12 (tomorrow) to select successful candidates. Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri will conduct the balloting.

Under the government scheme, Hajj dues excluding sacrifice will be Rs436,975 for the northern region of the country including Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, Sialkot, Faisalabad, Multan and Rahim Yar Khan, while the cost for the South region including Karachi, Quetta and Sukkur will be Rs426,975. An intending pilgrim will have to pay Rs 19,451 as optional Qurbani charges. In 2018, the Hajj expenses for Northern and Southern regions of Pakistan were Rs. 280,000 and Rs270,000 respectively, whereas Rs13,050 were separately charged for the animal sacrifice.

According to the officials, Hajj expenditures under the government scheme in 2019 increases by over Rs150,000 due to various reasons including devaluation of rupee, surge in overall prices and increase in fare of the airlines. The airlines have raised fare for 2019 which has become a thorn in the side of many Hujjaj, they said.

The annual hajj is one of the largest gatherings of people in a single moment in the world. It is obligatory for all Muslims to make the journey to Mecca at least once in their lifetime if they are physically, mentally and financially able. The process of submitting applications in various branches of 14 designated banks to secure a berth in Government Hajj Scheme had started on February 25. They had to also deposit Hajj dues by March 6 but the deadline was extended for few days due to bad weather in parts of Balochistan.

Saudi Arabian government has allowed e-visa facility to Pakistan through which Pakistani Hajj pilgrims from Karachi, Lahore will be able to get visa online. Saudi Arabian authorities have included Pakistan into their road to Makkah project to complete immigration procedure at Karachi and Lahore airports.

A quota of 10,000 has been allocated for the applicants of over 80 years of age for Hajj 2019. Another quota of 10,000 has been reserved for the applicants who remained unsuccessful in last consecutive three consecutive years. A 1.5 per cent quota has been reserved for hardship cases while 500 seats would be allocated to low income, labourers whose institution has been registered with Workers Welfare Board.

Accompanying a Mehram has been made mandatory for each Haji women. However over 45 years women of Fiqia-e-Jafria would be exempted from the condition.

The religious affairs ministry has decided to establish a Hajj helpline in order to promptly resolve grievances of prospective pilgrims. The prospective pilgrims can register their complaints or seek information via the 042-111-725-425 helpline.