$31.8mln saved in Hajj arrangements being reimbursed to pilgrims: Religion Ministry

Muslim pilgrims pray around the holy Kaaba at the Grand Mosque, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Makkah September 27, 2014. (Reuters)
Updated 08 July 2019

$31.8mln saved in Hajj arrangements being reimbursed to pilgrims: Religion Ministry

  • Savings are the result of the government arranging ‘smart’ accommodation and transport facilities in Makkah and Madinah
  • Around 200,000 Pakistanis will perform Hajj this year, of which 120,000 are utilizing a government scheme

KARACHI: Pakistan has started reimbursing to 117,000 pilgrims approximately $31.8 million in Hajj funds saved by the government on account of transportation and accommodation facilities in Makkah and Madinah, the Ministry of Religious Affairs said on Saturday.
“For the first time the government has started reimbursing money to Hajj pilgrims to the tune of Rs5 billion,” Imran Siddique, a spokesman for the Ministry of Religious Affairs, told Arab News. “The pilgrims will be returned a minimum of Rs26,000 and a maximum Rs67,000 back this year.”
Around 200,000 Pakistanis will perform Hajj this year, of which 120,000 are utiizing a government scheme and 80,000 are using private travel operators.
Under the government scheme the pilgrims are provided accommodation and transportation facilities in Makkah and Madinah.
Explaining how the government had saved on Hajj accommodations and transportation, Siddique said: “50,000 Pakistanis would travel through train service while the rest (67,000) of the pilgrims would not be able to avail this services due to the ticket quota allocation to the country, as only 300,000 people can travel via train.”
“The train fare is 500 Saudi riyal. Those who could not avail the train services will get the money back, which is approximately PKR 22,000,” Siddique added. “This is how the money on account of transportation is saved and would be refunded.”
Similarly, he continued, 96,000 Hajj pilgrims would be provided with accommodation in Markazia, a central area very close to Masjid-e-Nabawi, in Madinah while 21,000 would be provided accommodation away from the central area.
Around 500 Saudi riyal per night would be saved by those who stayed away from the center and this money would be reimbursed, Siddique said.
He said the process of reimbursing pilgrims had already started on Thursday.
“Last year we had deposited Rs283,000 with our application” housewife Naziran Bibi, who will go for Hajj next week with her mother and brother, told Arab News. “This year we have submitted Rs427,900 but we have not yet been refunded.”
Siddique said all banks had been directed to set up booths in Hajji Camps to refund the money to pilgrims: “Those who have not received it yet will get their money back before their scheduled flights,” he said.

Pakistan Steel Mills workers say will challenge mass layoffs in court

Updated 29 November 2020

Pakistan Steel Mills workers say will challenge mass layoffs in court

  • PSM management argues the company’s accumulated losses reached Rs212 billion ($1.33 billion) in June
  • The termination of 4,500 contracts is believed to be the biggest layoff from a single entity in Pakistan’s history

KARACHI: Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) employees are going to challenge in court the company’s recent decision to terminate the contracts of thousands of workers, union representatives said on Sunday.

The management of the state-owned company on Friday handed letters of termination to some 4,500 employees, arguing that PSM’s accumulated losses had reached Rs212 billion ($1.33 billion) in June, when the government decided that 9,350 workers would have to be fired for the dysfunctional enterprise to be revived.
“PSM has terminated 4,500 employees in the first phase of government’s plan to lay off 9,350 employees ... The employees have refused to accept this termination they have registered protests and have decided to challenge this decision in court next week,” Mirza Maqsood, President of Voice of Pakistan Steel Officers Association, told Arab News.

Located 40 kilometers from Karachi, Pakistan’s largest industrial complex with a steel production capacity of 1.1 million tons has been dysfunctional for the past few years. Its operations were suspended in 2015.
“Neither the Company has funds to revive the Mills nor are funds available from any other source to revive the Steel Mill. In any case, revival of the mill would require, firstly massive investment and secondly, entail a period of at least two years,” reads a PSM termination letter seen by Arab News.
The layoff was defended by federal Industries and Production Minister Hammad Azhar, who on Saturday said the terminated employees would be given compensation of Rs2.3 million on average.

“Since the closure of the mill, the government has paid around Rs35 billion as salaries and Rs20 billion as arears to the employees,” he said.

The discharge of workers is said to be one of the biggest layoffs of employees from a single government entity in the country’s history. 
 Karamat Ali, executive director at Pakistan Institute of Labor Education & Research (PILER), said the PSM layoff in unprecedented.
“No such number of employees have ever been fired from a single government institution,” he said.
The decision was also opposed by the provincial government of Sindh, which vowed to support the affected employees. 
“This is wrong and injustice. They (the federal government) must adhere to their earlier stance and commitments of turning the state institutions around with the help of their champions. I am with the employees,” Sindh Labor Minister Saeed Ghani told Arab News.
Mumrez Khan, convener of a representative body of employees, pensioners, suppliers, dealers and contractors of PSM, said that no serious efforts have been made by the federal government to revive the mill, claiming that negligence had caused losses even higher than those cited by PSM management.

“The accumulated losses have swelled to $12 billion on the account of closure of plants, revenue to the government and imports of steel products,” he said.