ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s religious affairs ministry said on Friday it had barred private tour operators and individuals from collecting money from intending Hajj pilgrims in advance.
After a hiatus of two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Saudi Arabia this year announced holding the annual Hajj pilgrimage for all Muslims across the globe.
Pakistan will be sending 81,132 pilgrims for this year’s Hajj, with 60 percent of the quota allocated to private Hajj operators. The maximum age limit for pilgrims this year is 65.
Last week, the Pakistan government announced people willing to perform Hajj this year could submit online applications from May 1 to 13, with token money of Rs50,000 ($270).
“The ministry observed that some private tour operators and individuals are receiving money from people directly or through their unrelated agents in the name of Hajj applications, registration,” religion ministry spokesperson Muhammad Umar Butt told Arab News on Friday adding that “this practice is totally illegal and an arrestable offense.”
“All such individuals and companies are strongly urged to refrain from this illegal activity. So far, the Ministry of Hajj has not allowed any tour operator to receive / register Hajj applications,” Butt added.
“Those who do not follow these instructions will be responsible for their own loss and the ministry's,” he said.
In 2020 and 2021, the kingdom held Hajj only for locals due to coronavirus restrictions.
Religious Affairs Minister Mufti Abdul Shakoor said on April 29 the per person cost of this year's Hajj could range from Rs700,000 ($3,770) to Rs1,000,000 ($5,386), owing to the increase in taxes and cost of other facilities in the kingdom.