ISLAMABAD - Applications for this year’s Haj will be received from April 18 to 26 in eight designated banks and the names of the prospective pilgrims will be announced on April 29 by balloting, says a new government policy announced yesterday.

Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Sardar Muhammad Yousaf announced the Haj Policy 2016 at a press conference, according to which 60 percent pilgrims will go through government scheme while 40 percent will perform Haj under private schemes.

A total of 143,368 Pakistanis will perform Haj this year out of which 86,021 will go through government scheme while remaining 57,347 will perform Haj through private tour operators, the minister said.

This year’s Haj package under the government scheme would be Rs 270,941 for the pilgrims hailing from Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Rs 261,941 for pilgrims from Sindh and Balochistan regions. And apart from that Rs 13,340 will be submitted for the ritual of sacrifice.

The pilgrims will be given the best food, transport and accommodation facilities as the government has made special arrangements this year, the minister said. The pilgrims will be given refreshments upon their arrival at Jeddah and Madina airports and air-conditioned and new model transport facility would be available to them round the clock. Instead of twice, they will now be served meal three times a day.

State Minister Muhammad Aminul Hasnat said there are no A, B or C categories and all the pilgrims will be provided with the same facilities.

On the directions of the Prime Minister, the airfare for the Haj has been reduced as compared to previous years, Sardar Yousaf said. For the North Zone, the pilgrims will be charged Rs 95,000 instead of Rs 98,700 and the pilgrims from South Zone will have to pay Rs 86,000 instead of Rs 89,700.

Yousaf said keeping in view two accidents last year in which hundreds of pilgrims had died, special measures have been taken to protect the Pakistani pilgrims. Every pilgrim will be issued a tracking card that will be connected with the control room and all the pilgrims will be easily traceable. The ministry is also considering giving a special training to the pilgrims to deal with any untoward situation. Last year, according to officials, about 208 Pakistani pilgrims died in crane crash incident, Mina stampede and from natural causes.