The federal government has unveiled a new Hajj policy for the current year, after bilateral meetings between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The 20 percent quota that was reduced in 2013 has been restored; which means that a total of 179,210 pilgrims will perform Hajj this year. Performing Hajj was becoming a financial burden due to the increasing costs. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, as a result, has rejected the proposal for increasing the cost of Hajj packages. This special treatment will also extend to the airfares. Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has been asked to reduce its fares particularly for the pilgrims.

One aspect of the scheme that must be appreciated is making the ratio of public to private Hajj 60:40. This means that those availing public Hajj packages will be in greater number than those performing Hajj privately. Those who have not had the chance to perform the pilgrimage in the recent past will be given preference over other Hajj applicants. Anyone who has performed Hajj in the last seven years will not be accommodated this year under the government Hajj scheme and five years for any private Hajj schemes.

Interior Ministry was in the centre of a controversy in 2011 when the Ministry of Religious Affairs asked for 15 million rupees spent on the ‘free Hajj’ of about 450 politicians, journalists, etc, and their families, in 2009 and 2010, on the recommendations of the Interior Ministry. In March, Former Minister for Religious Affairs Hamid Saeed Kazmi, former DG of Hajj Rao Shakeel and Joint Secretary Religious Affairs Raja Aftab Aslam were acquitted by the Islamabad High Court in the Hajj scandal, after Kazmi was sentenced to 12-year imprisonment in the Hajj corruption case.

These officials were charged with corruption and massive irregularities during Hajj operations between 2009 and 2012 and the case was initiated due to a letter from the Saudi government. These are one too many scandals, and the state should not tolerate any corruption or mismanagement in the performance of this holy duty, and the quota restriction and preference for first-timers must be strictly adhered to.