Over 180,000 Hajj pilgrims to clear immigration in Pakistan this year

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In this file photo, Muslim pilgrims leave Mount Arafat, also known as Jabal Al-Rahma (Mount of Mercy), after offering prayers. (AN photo by Basheer Saleh)
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This file photo shows Pakistani pilgrims leaving for Haj. (AFP)
Updated 14 March 2019

Over 180,000 Hajj pilgrims to clear immigration in Pakistan this year

  • Saudi Arabia to include Islamabad in its Road to Makkah program
  • Kingdom's officials to oversee arrangements during a visit on March 31

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.

Pakistan, EU set the tone for progress through strategic cooperation

Updated 25 March 2019

Pakistan, EU set the tone for progress through strategic cooperation

  • FM Qureshi meets with global body's top official to finalize details in Islamabad
  • Agree to work together in several major sectors

ISLAMABAD: In order to set the wheels of sustained development in motion, Pakistan and the European Union have agreed to work toward a strategic partnership in the fields of investment, energy and trade, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement released on Monday.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi met with the EU's High Representative and Vice-President, Federica Mogherini, after his arrival in Islamabad on Monday.

After the meeting, Mogherini held talks with Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Arif Alvi.

President Alvi said that Pakistan’s business environment has improved due to the government’s attempts to facilitate foreign investments, inviting the EU community to invest in the country.

In a statement released by his office, Alvi welcomed the recent ruling by the European Court of Human Rights, adding that it could “help create a balance between exercising the right to freedom of expression and incitement/hatred towards religious views and faith".

“The president emphasized that Pakistan strongly condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations whether perpetrated by individuals, groups or states,” the statement read.

President Alvi noted that Pakistan’s exports to the EU have increased by 38 percent, while EU’s exports to Pakistan have grown by 33 percent since the inception of the GSP Plus Scheme in 2014.

“Pakistan sees GSP Plus Scheme as constructive engagement for the betterment of its economy and values EU’s development assistance to Pakistan,” the statement said.

According to the statement, Mogherini said that there is huge potential for economic and trade relations between Pakistan and EU which needs to be fully explored and utilized.