JEDDAH - Some 20,000 Pakistani pilgrims had to walk to Mina, a distance of around six kilometers from Makkah's Grand Mosque, because their private Haj service providers failed to provide them with train tickets.

According to a report in Arab News Tuesday, the pilgrims said the service providers promised to arrange transportation for them by train, but failed to arrange tickets for them, describing their behavior as negligent and irresponsible.

Naveed Ahmed told Arab News that the service providers charged him and other pilgrims in the group for the train service as part of the Haj package; however, when they reached Makkah they were not given train tickets. Consequently, the pilgrims in this group were faced with the arduous task of walking to Mina.

"After much complaining and frantic calls, officials finally responded and arranged buses for some of us. However before last night, there was no response from any of the organizers. In one instance, one official told us that the government would reimburse us for the amount we paid for transportation, instead of reassuring us that our requests would be met," Ahmed added.

When contacted Akif, the director general of the Pakistani Ministry of Religious Affairs, to inquire about the services provided to Pakistani pilgrims, his answer was that pilgrims facing transportation difficulties were not the Ministry's responsibility as they (the pilgrims) had contracted with private Haj service providers that did not fall under the government's Haj scheme.

"We have no idea about this problem, as we are not responsible for pilgrims who came with private tour operators; they never involve us in their arrangements. However, if I am given the name of the officials in charge, I will see what I can do for them," he added.