ISLAMABAD: With more than 184,000 Pakistanis expected to perform Hajj this year, Prime Minister Imran Khan has instructed the ministry in charge to ensure exemplary arrangements are in place for all pilgrims traveling to Saudi Arabia, officials said on Thursday.
“As per the instructions from Prime Minister Imran Khan, the ministry will make exemplary arrangements for the pilgrims,” Imran Siddiqui, spokesman for the Ministry of Religious Affairs (MRA), told Arab News.
Nearly 107,526 Pakistanis will perform Hajj on the government’s quota this year, while more than 76,000 will be using services offered by private tour and Hajj operators. A ballot to ascertain who has qualified for the government’s quota was held in Islamabad on Thursday.
Siddiqui added that the process is expected to be smoother this year following Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's decision to include Pakistani nationals in the Road to Makkah program. As part of the initiative, all pilgrims traveling from Pakistan can now clear immigration at their local airports in Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, and Peshawar.
“Saudi officials will visit Pakistan on March 31 to examine the arrangements regarding immigration facilities at the relevant Pakistani airports,” Siddiqui said, adding that “this will be a great help for Pakistan pilgrims".
In February, Saudi Arabia said that it would be increasing the Hajj quota for Pakistan from 184,000 to 200,000. However, Siddiqui said that the MRA has yet to receive a formal notification to the effect.