ISLAMABAD - The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony announced the successful candidates, who will visit and perform Haj in Saudi Arabia this year, through computerised balloting Thursday.

Minister for Religious Affairs Sardar Muhammad Yousaf pressed buzzer and announced the names of the intending pilgrims. This was first time the ministry received applications by an online system established with the collaboration of banks and Punjab Information Technology Board.

Speaking on the occasion, the Minister for Religious Affairs said the ministry had received about 2,70,000 applications under the government scheme and out of them 71,684 pilgrims were selected by balloting to perform Haj under the government scheme.

Overall 1, 43,368 pilgrims will perform Haj this year out of which 50 per cent would proceed through private Haj operators. Majority of the applications were received by Habib Bank Limited and United Bank Limited and quite few number of people opted private banks to submit their applications, the minister informed.

The applicants included over 1,16,000 women and 1,24,000 men. Among the successful applicants over 200 intending pilgrims are nonagenarian while majority are from 30 to 35 years of age group.

The applicants can search their Haj application status online through www.hajjinfo.org.   All successful and unsuccessful applicants will also be informed via SMS by the ministry.

All the successful candidates have been advised to submit their valid machine-readable passport by May 25, 2015 in their respective banks or else they may be declared unsuccessful.

The ministry also announced that if siblings, children, parents or spouse of any successful applicant could not succeed because of falling in other groups, he/she may write an application to joint sectary Haj for consideration of the case within 15 days of balloting.     

The women who have submitted applications without Mehram, special persons who submitted applications without helper and any successful applicant who has performed Haj during the last five years and did not opt for 'Haj-e-Badal' or he will be going as 'Mehram' of a woman who has performed Haj in the past five years may be declared unsuccessful even after the balloting.

The media persons boycotted the event over delay in arrival of the minister and poor sitting arrangements as private Haj operators had occupied the seats. However, later the cameramen of various news channels broadcast the balloting ceremony live.