ISLAMABAD - Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Dr Noor-ul-Haq Qadri on Wednesday claimed that Haj cost for year 2019 was still the lowest among the regional counties in terms of dollars.

“The Haj packages in Iran, India, Indonesia and some other regional countries are higher than Pakistan in terms of dollars”, he claimed.

He was addressing a press conference at Ministry of Religious Affairs in Islamabad where he attributed increase in currency exchange rate, Saudi taxes, train fare during Mashair, higher airfare and buildings’ rent as reasons behind the rise in Haj package under the government scheme.

Under Haj Policy 2019, cost of performing Haj under government scheme has been fixed at Rs456,426 (with Qurbani), against the last year’s expense of Rs280,000 per person. Now, every individual will have to pay an additional Rs176,426.

The minister explained that the total increase of Haj package included Rs63,110 due to depreciation of Pakistani rupee, Rs17,000 on account of airfare, Rs45,000 due to increase in buildings rent and Rs42,426 due to tax imposed by Saudi Arabia’s government.

He said that the government package included train fare for the first time in the history, which would provide ease to the pilgrims.

While responding on the claims made by some of the private tour operators, who offered Haj packages with lesser costs as compared to the government scheme, Qadri said that such offers were being thrown by unregistered tour operators who even did not have Haj quota. He warned the general public against a possible fraud in this regard while citing previous examples and said that the people should avoid taking services of any unregistered tour operator.

“A committee comprising ministry officials and tour operators has already been formed to rationalise the packages of private sector as well”, he said.

While informing about the government’s steps to provide ease to those intending to performing Haj this year, the Federal Minister said that Pakistani Khadim-ul-Hujjaj will be allowed to enter first time inside the premise of the campus.

“Saudi government allowed the Road to Makkah project from Lahore and Karachi airports this year on our request which would be extended to other airports of the country in the next year,” he added.

Dr Noor-ul-Haq Qadri said that a temporary Haji Camp will be established at Gilgit for the facilitation of intending pilgrims from Gilgit-Baltistan and mobile biometric verification would be carried out in far-flung areas of the country.

Qadri said that social media would be used to guide and train intending pilgrims regarding religious and administrative matters.

When questioned whether the government was going to seek any tax exemption from KSA government in upcoming visit of Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Sulman, the minister replied that the government would request an increase in the Haj quota for Pakistan.

Haji’s heirs to get Rs0.5m in case of death

APP adds: The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony will pay Rs 500,000 each to the heirs of a pilgrim of Government Haj Scheme in case of death and Rs150,000 in case of accidental disability of one limb during the Haj in Saudi Arabia.

According to Haj Policy 2019, Rs 250,000 each will be paid to Haji on permanent disability of more than one limb and Rs 300,000 in case of emergency evacuation of pilgrim from Saudi Arabia due to illness.

He said Ministry will continue Haj Mohafiz Scheme for risk management under Takaful to compensate the affected Hujjaj/nominee of the deceased Hujjaj in current year Haj season.

Each Haji/member of welfare staff would be required to contribute a non-refundable amount of Rs 500 into the scheme. The said scheme would compensate Hujjaj/welfare staff against the losses.