MULTAN - For ordinary Pakistanis, Haj may be a religious duty, but when it comes to Pakistan government it is more than a ritual-its an earning spree. Every year Pakistani pilgrims hear the news of hike in Haj expenses, but this year it is coupled with another news. Besides 19 per cent increase in total Haj expenditures, the government has played another trick to pick at least Rs304 million from the pockets of poor pilgrims. The delay in announcement of Haj policy has forced the applicants to submit applications for machine-readable Haj passport on urgent fee instead of normal one. This year 1,60,000 pilgrims will perform Haj and shortage of time has forced all of them to file their passport applications on urgent fee. The normal fee for passport application is Rs2,100 while all the Haj applicants are made to pay Rs4,000 as urgent fee for getting passport on urgent basis. Thus each applicant is to pay an additional amount of Rs1,900 for getting machine-readable international passport. Last year the Haj policy had been announced on May 15, but this time it was unveiled by Federal for Religious Affairs Minister Hamid Saeed Kazmi on June 4. According to the Ministry of Religious Affairs, the starting date for submission of Haj application was June 10 and this process had to come to an end on June 25. The applicants have to submit their machine-readable passports along with their national identity cards with their applications as no application is entertained without these documents. On the other hand, the delivery of passport has got further slow due to the sudden burden of Haj applicants. Sources in passport department disclosed that the Islamabad office has called officials from Multan and other regional offices to cope with this crisis and expedite Haj passport operation.