ISLAMABAD: With three quality meals, a day to Pakistani Hujjaj in Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah, the Federal Government is trying hard to ensure the expenses for Haj 2017 at affordable level with a package much better incentives.
The government is planning to provide the pilgrims with quality tents in the said three areas with improved versions of mats, mineral water and cooling arrangements, Secretary for Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Khalid Masood Chaudhry told.
The ministry is trying from pillar to post in maintaining the public sector Haj expenditure per person at the level of last year’s expenses, but the finality will to this effect emerge once the ongoing talks with national flag carrier PIA over the flight charges are concluded, Chaudhry explained.
The ministry desires to trim down the flight charges by Rs8000 to Rs10,000 from last year charges of Rs92000 per person. If the desired result is attained then the Haj expenses will come down accordingly. However, in case of failure, the ministry will try to maintain the expenses at the level of last year. “Once the flight rate with PIA is finalised, then the ministry will pitch the Haj policy for 2017 with Cabinet for approval.”
When asked if the government will introduce the open sky policy or not, Chaudhry said that this is the domain of the federal government to decide. However, the indications emanating from the highest level show that the government will not go for open sky policy for the arrivals and departure of Pakistani pilgrims.
The top mandarins of the government want PIA to thrive through the task for the travelling of the pilgrims. The national flag carrier already soaked in the ocean of financial miseries needs the protected regime to survive in terms of the commuting the pilgrims. PIA is extended the huge business of commuting the Hajjis to and from Saudi Arabia. This time the number of pilgrims who will offer Haj through the government arrangements will stands at 1,79,210.
The Pakistani pilgrims will also be provided latest and brand new transport with modern facilities from airport to the accommodation sites. As many as 160 buses of latest model equipped with modern facilities will carry the Pakistani pilgrims from airports to the accommodation sites. On arrival at Jeddah and Madina airports, pilgrims will be offered snacks.
This time from the accommodation sites in Makkah and Madina, the luggage of the pilgrims will be lifted through the registered and security cleared trucks hired by the concerned airlines and reached the respective airports. This will avoid the huge hassle, pilgrims usually experience at the airports prior to boarding for Pakistan. Now the Hajjis will only just get boarding cards at the airports as their luggage will already be booked from their respective hotels they will be staying in.
The government is also trying to carve out special arrangements with the help of Saudi authorities to keep the pilgrims on their arrivals at the airports at Jeddah and Madina away from delays in getting clearance as earlier they were used to be stranded for hours in the airports. “We have highlighted this particular issue with authorities concerned in Saudi Arabia asking as to why Pakistani pilgrims have to wait for a long time for departing to this accommodation sites. The authorities in Saudi Arabia have offered the increase in numbers of handlers at the airports to keep the pilgrims away from irritating delays”.
This time private sector, he disclosed, will also not be allowed to make arrangement for Haj for a person who has already performed the Haj in five years’ time. The government has already banned through the government Haj scheme for 7 years’ time for a person who have already offered the Haj.
Coming to more incentives which are on the cards during the Haj for 2017, Chaudhry said that Salah transport to Masjid-e-Nabvi and Kaabatullah from their hotels will be arranged with tracking facility.
This year the intending pilgrims will be educated how to behave in the holy cities, how to use the toilet facilities there and avoid spreading the used things there. To this effect private Haj operators have also been offered to use the government infrastructure such Haji Camp to train their pilgrims prior to departing to Saudi Arabia to make their marks in holy cities showing how Pakistani pilgrims are civilized citizens.