ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s interim religious affairs minister Aneeq Ahmed said on Monday the government wanted to provide maximum facilities to Hajj pilgrims, adding that the Makkah Route Initiative, which was previously confined to Islamabad, would also be extended to the southern Karachi port city in the coming year.
This initiative allows pilgrims performing Hajj under the government scheme the convenience of undergoing all immigration requirements to enter Saudi Arabia from their home countries’ airports.
Ahmed made the announcement while addressing the inaugural ceremony of the bankers’ training for the Hajj portal for next year’s pilgrimage.
The government announced the Hajj Policy 2024 on Thursday and plans to start receiving applications from aspiring pilgrims from Nov. 27 to Dec. 12.
“The Road to Makkah program, a facility offered by the Saudi government to Hujaj [pilgrims], was earlier limited to Islamabad only but this year it will be extended to Karachi airport as well,” the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) news agency quoted the minister as saying on the occasion.
He also informed the participants that the government aimed to expand the facility to other major airports across Pakistan, further facilitating pilgrims from all regions.
Ahmed stated it was the government’s responsibility to make adequate arrangements for Hajj, adding that its cost had been reduced to PKR 1,075,000 next year from PKR 1,175,000 in 2023.
He informed attendees that the government was negotiating with airlines to reduce airfare. “In the event of a reduction in air ticket prices, the corresponding amount would be transferred into the accounts of Hujaj-e-Karam,” he added.
The government will also introduce a smartphone app for pilgrims that would assist them from the moment they file the Hajj applications until their return to the country. Additionally, Pakistan has managed to secure tent space in the Old Mina area and will provide a commuting facility through a dedicated fleet of buses.
The ministry will provide QR code-marked suitcases along with other Hajj articles, including headscarves adorned with the country’s flag, to be distributed to female pilgrims.