ISLAMABAD: The Haj quota for Pakistan has been increased to 179,210 applications for 2017. The quota had been reduced in 2013 due to expansion work in the Grand Mosque.
“An agreement for the year 2017 has been signed with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Haj quota has been enhanced from 143,368 to 179,210,” Minister for Religious Affairs Sardar Mohammad Yousuf said here on Thursday.
He was briefing Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif regarding arrangements for the 2017 Haj.
The prime minister was informed that the Saudi Haj ministry had been requested to increase Pakistan’s quota by at least 15,000 on the basis of the country’s current population.
Under government scheme, applicants who have performed Haj during the last seven years will not be eligible to apply in 2017
Mr Sharif approved a proposal of the Ministry of Religious Affairs that applicants who have performed Haj during the last seven years would not be eligible to apply for Haj in 2017 under the government scheme, while Haj-i-Badal will be allowed only through the private Haj scheme.
The minister claimed that confidence of Haj pilgrims in the government sponsored scheme had been restored. “This is evident from the fact that the number of applications for the government Haj scheme has increased by more than 300 per cent from 86,919 in 2013 to 280,617 in 2016,” he added.
He said the process of hiring of accommodation, transport, catering and other allied facilities had already been initiated.
The prime minister appreciated the ministry for its commendable work and efforts for Haj arrangements.
He, however, observed that there was always room for further improvement and that the ministry should strive to make Haj arrangements better and more cost-effective. The visible improvement in facilities provided to Haj pilgrims over the past three years had been acknowledged by all segments of society, he added.
The prime minister directed the ministry to further improve arrangements for Haj this year. He said special attention must be given to arrangements at airports and planning for the provision of daily meal three times to pilgrims in Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah, and also general facilitation for them in lodging and travelling. He said the government would take all possible measures for making Haj experience of Pakistanis comfortable and secure.
The religious affairs ministry, he said, must discharge its responsibilities with full devotion not only as an official duty but also a religious obligation of the highest order.