Hajj policy-2011 announced, applications to be received from April 15

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Cabinet on Wednesday approved the Hajj policy for the year-2011 under which around 180,000 pilgrims will perform the religious obligation in Saudi Arabia. The pilgrims will be sent to the Holy Land under the government and private schemes for which the Ministry of Religious Affairs will receive applications from April 15 to May 10.Minister for Religious Affairs Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah announced the approval of policy, which will be applicable for three years, at a press conference at the PM Secretariat here. He was flanked by Minister for Information and Broadcasting Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan, Secretary Religious Affairs Shaukat Hayat Durrani and Information Secretary Taimur Azmat Osman .He said that 5,000 designated bank branches would receive the applications and media would be kept informed on daily basis about the number of applicants. “I will also pay surprise visits to the bank branches to ensure transparency,” the minister said.“Out of the total allocation, 50 per cent will be allocated to the government Hajj scheme and 50 percent to private scheme,” he said.

This year, the minister said, there would be no balloting for Hajj as the applicants would be selected on “first-come and first-served” basis to ensure transparency in the entire process.He said that the applicants, who had been unsuccessful in 2010 Hajj-balloting under the government scheme, would be declared successful, if they had not withdrawn their deposited amounts.“A person, who has performed Hajj during the last five years, will not be eligible this year except Mehram, group leader or undertaking Hajj-e-Badal,” Khursheed Shah maintained.He said the Ministry was launching a pilgrim protection scheme under which each Haji would be required to contribute Rs. 400 non-refundable premium. “ a sum of Rs 200,000 will be paid from the fund in case of death during the pilgrimage, Rs 50,000 for the loss of a limb in an accident, Rs 100,000 for loss of two limbs and Rs 50,000 for emergency evacuation due to illness,” the minister said.He said that the policy had been finalized in consultation with the Saudi government, which extended great cooperation to Pakistan and gave additional Hajj quota of 20,000, increasing it from 158,000 to 179,254.The minister said this year machine readable passports (MRPs) would be mandatory for the intending pilgrims.

As per the previous practice, only two international airlines, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and Saudi Airlines, have been allowed to carry out Hajj flight operations from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia and vice versa.  The Hujjaj will be airlifted by the two airlines in pursuance of the revised Air Service Agreement (ASA) between the two countries.The minister said that PIA has agreed for airfare at the rate of Rs 72,000 for south zone and Rs 84,000  for north zone per Haji.Under the government scheme, there would be two categories of accommodation i.e. Green and White.The pilgrims falling in the Green category will get accommodation at a distance of 2,000 meters from Haram Sharif at the rate of 4,000 Saudi Riyals. The Hujjaj of White category will get the facility beyond 2,000 meters distance from Haram Sharif with rental ceiling of 36,00 Riyals per pilgrim, the minister added.“Hajj dues of White category will be Rs 200,847 for south zone and Rs 212,847 for north zone. Hajj dues for the Green category will be Rs 210,047 for south zone and Rs 222,047 for north zone,” he said.Khursheed Shah said a broad-based Accommodation Hiring Committee comprising five members would hire accommodations in Makkah Mukarramah and Madina Munwwarah for the Pakistani pilgrims.

The ministry has already arranged the facility for 27,000 pilgrims, he added.He clarified that there would be no fresh enrolment of Hajj Groups Organizers (HGOs). “The HGOs already enrolled with the Ministry in the year 2010 shall continue in 2011 with the same quota,” he maintained.He said a “Hajj Advisory Committee” comprising parliamentarians would  advise on policy, planning and management of Hajj operation 2011 in the country as well as in Saudi Arabia.He said taht the pilgrims performing Hajj under the government scheme would not be required to pay any amount on account of personal exchange quota, which would be arranged by them from the open market through banks or foreign exchange companies.Commenting on welfare services, he said the staff of Medical Hajj Mission would be increased from 260 to 540, while 230 Khuddam ul Hujjaj would be drawn from the Armed Forces, Civil Armed Forces and Pakistan Boy Scouts. Around 900 Pakistani students studying in Saudi Arabia would be hired at 100 Riyals per day.The minister said that all the pilgrims would have to affix a  Pakistani flag sticker on their “Ahrams” for identification, while every female pilgrim would have to carry at least two “Abayas” preferable of black colour. – APP