Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif approved the Hajj Policy 2017 in a cabinet meeting in Islamabad, government officials announced Wednesday.
The prime minister is said to have directed the provision of the maximum amount of facilities to pilgrims and ordered the ministry to make the best possible arrangements for Pakistani pilgrims this year, the information minister said in a press conference.
Hajj expenses will also be reworked and presented again in the next cabinet meeting as a proposal to increase the cost of Hajj packages has been rejected by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the information minister said.
According to a copy of the Hajj Package 2017, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, Pakistan’s Hajj quota — which was reduced to 143,368 in 2013 — has been restored to 179,210, while the Saudi Hajj Ministry has additionally been requested to enhance Pakistan’s quota by at least 15,000 on the basis of the current population of the country.
The process of issuing tenders for the accommodation, transport, catering and other allied facilities for Hajj pilgrims has been initiated.
According to the document, the following services will be provided to Pakistani pilgrims for this year:
Express clearance services at Jeddah and Madina airports.
Modern buses to transport pilgrims from the airport to their residences.
Provision of 100 per cent accommodation in markazia in Madina will be ensured.
Provision of cooked meals three times a day in Mashair (Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah).
Provision of filtered water and effective cooling systems in each maktab in Mina.
Provision of fireproof tents at Arafat.
Separate washrooms for the disabled in Mina, Muzdalifah and Arafat.
The Hajj quota of 179,210 pilgrims is expected to be divided in a 60/40 ratio between the government and private Hajj operators, and in case Pakistan’s request for an increase in quota is approved by Saudi Arabia, it will also be divided between government and private Hajj schemes.
The quota for private operators will be allocated to existing quota holders to ensure smooth Hajj operations.
Additional proposals for the Hajj quota include:
Applicants who have performed Hajj during the last seven years will not be eligible to apply for Hajj 2017 under the government scheme. Similarly for private Hajj schemes, the limit may be restricted to the last five years.
Hajj-e-Badal will be allowed through private Hajj operators only.
The Hajj Policy Formulation Committee of the Supreme Court have recommended the abolishment of the ‘hardship quota’ in the Hajj scheme.
The airfare of Rs95,000 (North) and Rs86,000 (South) from 2016 will be maintained for Hajj 2017.