Pakistan under pressure to bring down Haj expenses

By Muhammad Najeeb, IANS,

Islamabad : Pakistan’s Ministry of Religious Affairs has received hundreds of letters from politicians, religious leaders and others demanding that expenses for the Haj pilgrimage be reduced and brought on par with India.

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According to an official, the government was under pressure to reduce Haj expenses. In India, he said, a pilgrim pays $1,400 to go for the pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia but in Pakistan the cost is at least $2,500.

The official said that a group of religious leaders recently gave a presentation to Religious Affairs Advisor Allama Hamid Saeed Kazmi comparing costs in India and Pakistan.

India, he said, subsidised the pilgrimage but there was no subsidy in Pakistan.

In Pakistan, there are two categories for Haj pilgrims – government and private. In the first category, the minimum amount that would be spent would be Rs.200,000. This could go up to Rs.800,000 in the private category depending on the class of travel, and quality of transport and stay in Makkah and Medina.

This year, 164,647 people will perform Haj from Pakistan – 85,000 under government scheme and 79,647 through private operators.

According to Asadullah Hafeez of Medina Hajj Operators, the airfare from Pakistan has doubled from last year. The two main carriers are Pakistan International and Saudi airlines.