Pakistan conducts balloting for Hajj 2020 amid coronavirus pandemic

In this file photo, Muslim pilgrims circumambulate around Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in Makkah on Aug. 13, 2019. (AFP)
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Updated 15 March 2020

Pakistan conducts balloting for Hajj 2020 amid coronavirus pandemic

  • Religious affairs minister hopes the viral disease will subside by the time of Hajj
  • Islamabad requested Saudi authorities for expansion of Makkah Route project to facilitate maximum pilgrims

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday announced the names of successful Hajj applicants who will perform their pilgrimage on government scheme this year amid coronavirus pandemic, promising all necessary safety and precautionary measures to protect them from any contagious disease.
The names of these individuals were chosen through lucky draw.
“We are well aware of the coronavirus disease and hopefully it will subside by the time the Hajj begins,” Federal Minister for Religious Affairs, Pir Noor-ul-Haq Qadri, said while conducting the balloting in Islamabad.
Hajj is an annual pilgrimage to Makkah which is one of the holiest sites for Muslims. It is a mandatory religious duty for physically fit and financially secured adult Muslims to undertake this journey at least once in their lifetime. This year the annual pilgrimage will be performed in the last week of July.
About 179,210 Pakistani pilgrims are expected to perform Hajj this year. According to the government Hajj policy, 60 percent (107,526) pilgrims will be allocated to the government Hajj scheme while the other 40 percent (71,684) will perform their religious duty with the help of private tour operators.
The government received 149,330 Hajj applications to be included in the balloting process.
The minister said he was in touch with the Saudi Ministry of Hajj to arrange the “best possible” accommodation, transportation and food facilities for pilgrims during their stay in Makkah and Madinah.
“Please refrain from spreading panic and rumors about coronavirus… We will screen and vaccinate all Hajj pilgrims as per the guidelines of the WHO [World Health Organization],” he said.
So far, 21 coronavirus infections have been confirmed in Pakistan, with one patient reported to be out of danger and discharged last week.
The government has been struggling to stem the spread of the virus in the country by raising awareness among the public and screening all inbound travelers at airports and land routes.
Though the number of new coronavirus infections dropped to a single-digit in China, COVID-19 virus has spread to more than 115 countries across the globe. The virus has killed 4,749 people and infected more than 129,000 globally, resulting in widespread panic and closure of museums, parks, religious sites and public areas in several countries across the world.
Keeping the coronavirus threat aside, the government has requested all successful Hajj applicants to submit their passports and a medical certificate to complete other formalities like air tickets.
Pakistan was included in Saudi Arabia’s flagship Makkah Route project last year under which customs and pre-departure immigration of around 20,000 pilgrims was completed at the Islamabad International Airport.
The minister said that his government had requested the Saudi authorities to expand the project to at least four other airports of Pakistan, including Peshawar, Karachi, Lahore and Quetta, to facilitate pilgrims.
“We are hopeful to get a positive response from the Saudi authorities soon,” he added.


Pakistan vows to raise with EU issue of civilian deaths in Kashmir 

Updated 12 min 38 sec ago

Pakistan vows to raise with EU issue of civilian deaths in Kashmir 

  • Outrage follows a viral photo of a toddler sitting on grandfather’s corpse in Sopore, Indian-administered Kashmir
  • Qureshi called the killing of the man ‘cold-blooded murder’ by Indian security forces 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Wednesday evening said he would raise with the European Union the issue of civilian deaths in Indian-administered Kashmir, after the heart-wrenching image of a young boy sitting on top of the blood-soaked body of his grandfather in Sopore has been widely shared by media.
The man was killed during an encounter between security forces and militants, Indian authorities said. Identified as 51-year-old Bashir Ahmed Khan, he was traveling with his 3-year-old grandson from Srinagar to Handwara town, when the two were caught in the crossfire.
Qureshi called the incident “cold-blooded murder” and the latest in a growing list of “extrajudicial killings in the valley.”
He said in a statement he had informed the European Union about the situation in Kashmir and requested that immediate notice be taken, as he reiterated Pakistan’s resolve to raise its voice on atrocities in the valley at every forum.
Last month, Pakistan condemned “extra-judicial killings” of Kashmiris in fake encounters and cordon-and-search operations.
“It is the responsibility of the world community to urgently act and protect the Kashmiris from the wanton killings and other brutalities being inflicted on them by the Indian occupation forces. Pakistan will continue to call for holding India accountable for its crimes against the Kashmiri people,” the Foreign Office said in a statement on June 9.