Each year millions of pilgrims travel to the holy cities of Makkah & Madina for Hajj including from Pakistan. 2019 is not different in the context that thousands of Pakistanis are waiting for the announcement of government packages and policy but in terms of cost it is quite different.
The initial revelations by media are not satisfactory for the interested pilgrims as it is expected that Hajj Packages will be more expensive for the current year due to the devaluation of Pakistani rupees against dollar and the higher taxes by the Saudi Kingdom.
It is expected that the cost & fees of Hajj will be Rs. 420,000/person which is a 55% increase from the 2018 cost. It is said that the Ministry of Religious Affairs (MORA) has sought a government subsidy of Rs. 40,000 after which the government package charges will be Rs. 380,000.
In 2018 government prices for the religious pilgrimage were 270,000 for southern region and 280,000 for the northern region. The cost of animal sacrifice, Rs. 13,050 was charged separately making the maximum cost Rs. 293,050 while this year it is expected to be Rs. 380,000.
Saudi Arabia has also increased the quota of Pakistan by five thousands after which 184,000 people from Pakistan will be able to perform this religious obligation.
Under ‘Road To Makkah’ initiative is also launched for the people of Sindh who will face new strategy at Karachi Airport while pilgrims from Lahore will go through the usual mechanism.
It was also reported by media that the MORA is facing difficulties in preparation of the Hajj Policy 2019 but it was refuted by the Ministry of Religious Affairs.
It is expected that soon the government scheme will be launched after which applicants will start submitting their application forms. It is expected that the Hajj Forms will be accepted from January 20 to February, but the date has not been confirmed by the ministry.
After submission of application forms applicants will be able to check their application status from the dedication inquiry portal and website of Ministry of Religious affairs for Hajj which is Hajjinfo.org. The results of balloting (qurandazi) will also be available on the same enquiry portal.
People prefer Hajj Scheme quota which is affordable and cheap in comparison with the costly private Hajj in which tour operators & agencies charge higher amount and price.
If the government scheme becomes expensive then the vast majority of people who make savings for years to finance their journey to Makkah will not be able to afford it at the new rates and they may substitute it by Umrah.
Also Read: Rare Pictures of Kaaba from Hajj Of 1953
But the increased taxes and charges by Saudi Arabia and the inflation in the country will also affect those who used to offer Umrah as it was cheaper than Hajj.
It seems that so far ‘Riyasat Madina’ has failed to facilitate the holy pilgrims by burdening them higher cost.
By Abdullah Baloch