LAHORE - After Tuesday’s draw held in Islamabad to choose those who will be performing Hajj under the government scheme, the private Hajj organizers across the country will start receiving applications from today from those with more resources and less time available to them to perform this religious obligation.

The cheapest package to be offered by the private sector begins from Rs 509,000 while the highest crosses Rs 1.6 million, depending upon the facilities and comforts and the stay duration sought by the applicants, Waheed Iqbal Butt, Chairman of the Hajj Operators Association of Pakistan, told The Nation on Tuesday.

The lesser the duration, the higher the charges. The shortest Hajj duration is 13 days and the highest 42 days. Last year, the lowest package for the private Hajj was Rs 410,000. Depreciation of rupee and increase in certain charges announced by the Saudi government are major factors responsible for the increase in Hajj expenses to be charged by the private sector, explained Mr Butt.

Packages range between Rs0.5m and Rs1.6m

Higher fees of “Moallameen” and increase in food prices are some other factors that have pushed up the private Hajj packages. A riyal is costlier by Rs 6.40 compared to last year.

Air ticket will be more expensive by Rs 17,000; intercity transport has witnessed an increase of 210 riyals and transport charges between important points of religious importance have gone up by 411 riyals per person, the HOAP chairman said while explaining the factors that have made the private Hajj dearer.

Private sector Hajj operators had a quota of 71,684 people, which has been enhanced by 5,000 after the Saudi government raised the overall quota for the Islamic republic following the landmark Islamabad visit by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last month. The visit had brought the two countries further closer and the Crown Prince had said he would be working like Pakistan’s ambassador in the kingdom.

The additional quota would go to the new HOAP members, said Mr Butt.

The HOAP chairman said some 25 percent Hajj applications to be received by the private sector usually come from those not selected in draw for the government’s scheme.

It may be pointed out that 216,623 people had applied for Hajj through the government scheme this year. The number of applications was more than 40 percent less than those applied for a year ago.

The government scheme expenditures for a pilgrim are estimated at 436,975.