Pakistan to start Hajj flights from July 4 – official spokesman

“Hajj flights from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia will be operational from July 4,” Imran Siddique, MRA spokesman said. (AFP/File)
Updated 20 June 2019

Pakistan to start Hajj flights from July 4 – official spokesman

  • Ministry of Religious Affairs says measures in place to make project a success
  • Move part of Saudi’s ambitious initiative to facilitate pilgrims from all over the world

ISLAMABAD: Preparations to make Saudi Arabia’s ‘Road to Makkah’ project a success are underway and in its final stages at major airports, officials at Pakistan’s Ministry of Religious Affairs told Arab News on Wednesday.
“Hajj flights from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia will be operational from July 4,” Imran Siddique, MRA spokesman said, adding that the officials are in talks with the Saudi government “through the foreign office to finalize all matters.”
He added that the MRA is doing everything in its capacity to facilitate Hajj pilgrims from Pakistan.
On Monday, Pakistan’s Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan had said that the government was intent on making the project – which 
is aimed at facilitating Hajj pilgrims from across the Muslim world – a success.
During Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s visit to Pakistan in February this year, Prime Minister Imran Khan had requested Saudi Arabia to include Pakistan in the project, following which Saudi authorities had said that all pilgrims traveling from Pakistan would be able to clear immigration at local airports in Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, and Peshawar.
“The aviation division has inculcated five major airports in the country to store Zamzam water for Hajj pilgrims this year,” Khan said, adding that the initiative was “as per the instructions of the Ministry of Religious Affairs to the Islamabad International Airport.”
Khan added that ample space had been allocated at several airports for the storage of Zamzam holy water which would be brought from Saudi Arabia and distributed among pilgrims on their return from Hajj this year. 
“These airports include Islamabad, Quetta, Faislabad, Sukkar and Rahim Yar Khan,” he said. 
In April this year, a Saudi delegation comprising officials from the Kingdom’s immigration and passport departments visited Pakistan to evaluate facilities for pilgrims at the major airports.
As part of the Road to Makkah initiative, the Hajj quota for Pakistani pilgrims has been increased from 184,210 to 200,000 this year. This year Saudi Arabia has also agreed, in principle, to provide e-visas to Pakistanis performing Hajj.


Editor of Pakistan’s English daily says 'orchestrated campaign' against newspaper

Updated 08 December 2019

Editor of Pakistan’s English daily says 'orchestrated campaign' against newspaper

  • Two angry protests in a week broke out against daily Dawn for identifying London bridge attacker to be of Pakistani origin
  • “The government has nothing to do with these protests:” PTI senate leader

KARACHI/ISLAMABAD: Following charged protests outside the office of Pakistan’s independent English language daily in Islamabad, the paper’s editor said the demonstrations seemed like an “orchestrated campaign” to force the paper into self-censorship.
On Friday, dozens of angry protesters besieged the Dawn newspaper’s bureau in the capital, chanting slogans against the editor and staff and setting fire to copies of the paper. This followed a similar demonstration earlier on Tuesday, where protesters demanded that editor Zaffar Abbas and publisher Hameed Haroon be hanged for reporting that the London Bridge attacker, who stabbed two people to death last week, was of “Pakistani origin.” 
“We have no way to identify the protesters but to us it looks like an orchestrated campaign against Dawn,” editor Zaffar Abbas told Arab News on Saturday.
“Everyone has a right to disagree with Dawn’s journalism, and even to protest against us. But calling us anti-state, making demands that we be hanged, burning our effigies, amounts to incitement to violence. This should immediately stop,” he said and urged the authorities and government ministers to show some tolerance toward critical journalism.
Abbas said a few of the government’s ministers and senior officials had expressed their anger toward Dawn — some publicly and others through messages. 
“We were accused of writing something anti-state, as according to them, the attacker had nothing to do with Pakistan,” Abbas said, and added that Dawn tried to explain that nowhere in its news report had it suggested the attacker was radicalized in Pakistan or that Pakistan had anything to do with the attack.
“We also tried to explain to them that even in the past we had referred to people like the London Mayor Sadiq Khan or boxer Aamir Khan as of Pakistani origin, although they were born in Britain and are UK nationals,” Abbas said. 
After that, he said, suddenly the protest demonstrations began.
“In the larger context this can be seen as yet another attempt to silence Dawn, and force it into self-censorship-- something that we have tried to resist so far,” Abbas said.
But government officials denied that the protests were planned.
“The government has nothing to do with these protests. Why would the government do it? If anything happens which is not liked by the people, they come out to protest. This happens everywhere in the world, even in western countries,” said PTI senator Shibli Faraz, leader of the house in Pakistan’s senate.
“Newspapers sometimes write something which offends certain segments of society, so it is natural they will come out to protest. But again, I would say the protest should be peaceful,” Faraz said, adding that newspapers should be careful and accountable.
“Journalism is about reporting responsibly and correctly and they (journalists) should be accountable and responsible for what they write. We should also consider our country’s interests,” Faraz said.
Earlier, Human Rights minister Shireen Mazari wrote in a Twitter post: “I disagree often with @dawn_com’s line but I strongly condemn violence & threats by protesters outside Dawn’s offices.”
PM’s special assistant for information and broadcasting, Firdous Ashiq Awan, could not be reached for comment till the filing of this report.
Friday’s protest outside Dawn’s bureau came a day after journalists and rights’ activists rallied in support of the paper and criticized an earlier anti-newspaper protest.
On Saturday, the body of 28 year old London Bridge attacker, Usman Khan, was laid to rest in his ancestral village in Pakistan’s Azad Kashmir.
“All I can say is that after the latest development where the body of the London attacker was brought here and buried in an AJK village, this sinister campaign against Dawn should stop,” Abbas said.
“Prime Minister Imran yesterday said he fully supports media freedom. We expect the prime minister to intervene in the matter, and in the light of the latest development, take measures to stop calls for violence,” he said.
“Democracy can only flourish if there is a free and critical media. Without a vibrant and free press, there can be no democracy.”