Senate body seeks subsidy to provide relief to Hajj pilgrims

ISLAMABAD   –   Senate Standing Committee on Interfaith Harmony on Tuesday recommended the government to grant subsidy on Hajj 2022 to reduce the expenditures and costs pilgrims had been paying.

The committee met under the chair of Senator Abdul Ghafoor Haideri to review in detail the increase in the Hajj quota of the new Hajj Group Organisers (HGOs) of Balochistan province, besides the existing Hajj policy and issues related to Hajj.

The chairman committee said that the meeting has been called in emergency to review the complaints and issues regarding the quota of HGOs from Balochistan.

He said he had also written a letter to the Chairman Senate to resolve their issues amicably.

Aftab Durrani, Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Religious Affairs, while briefing the committee, said that quotas have been allotted to HGOs on merit.

He said that usually Hajj policy is approved in December or January every year but for current year the Saudi government has approved quota of 81132 for Pakistan pilgrims out of which 40% will perform Hajj under government scheme and 60% through private operators.

Durrani said that the announcement of Hajj expenses is the most important thing that the Saudi government did two days ago. There are three types of expenses which are determined by the Saudi government, the DG Hajj and the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

He said that the biggest part of expenses was to be borne by the Saudi government, which was agreed on Sunday evening.

The Ministry of Religious Affairs has prepared a summary and sent it to the Cabinet for approval. However, the applications have been received till 13 May and Hajj balloting held by May 16.

He further said that the Hajj quota has been distributed among 801 private companies out of which 64 belong to Balochistan province.

In 2019, he said, there were 102 new quota holder companies. The number of newly registered companies was 2907 out of which 311 belonged to Balochistan. In 2019, he said, there was none new quota holder company from Balochistan.

According to the report of the draft audit firm, out of 311 new companies of Balochistan, 194 have been disqualified and 117 have been declared eligible.

Durrani said complaints have been received from Balochistan companies on the report of the draft audit firm which are being reviewed. He informed the committee that the quota is given to the highest scoring companies on the basis of seniority.

It must be mentioned here that due to low ratings in 2019, no new Hajj Group Organiser from Balochistan could get a quota.

Chairman Committee Senator Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri said that many people are complaining that they have obtained a license since 2005 but could not get quota.

The committee was told that the companies which failed to meet all the legal requirements were not given Hajj quota as the quota was awarded in accordance with the order of the Supreme Court on the basis of transparency and merit.

In response to a question from the chairman, it was informed that the current year Hajj expenses would be up to Rs850,000. Maulana Haideri said the government should provide subsidies for the pilgrims so that the expenses can be significantly reduced.

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