Date for submission of passport by pilgrims in banks extended

In a file photo, Muslims pray at the Grand Mosque during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Makkah, Saudi Arabia. — Reuters
In a file photo, Muslims pray at the Grand Mosque during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Makkah, Saudi Arabia. — Reuters

The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony has extended the date for submission of passports by Hajj pilgrims in respective bank branches till April 28, Radio Pakistan reported on Sunday.

The ministry also advised the pilgrims to use the smartphone app, ‘Saudi Visa Bio’, for biometric verification, while staying at their homes.

In case of any difficulty, the ministry advised, Hajis may visit nearest Gerry’s Visa Centre between 2pm to 6pm.

Last month, Mufti Abdul Shakoor — the late minister for religious affairs — said that 179,210 Pakistani pilgrims would perform Hajj this year.

The estimated Hajj cost for the northern region — which includes Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, Multan, Faisalabad, Rahim Yar Khan, and Sialkot — is Rs1,175,000 while for the southern region, it is Rs1,165,000.

Hajj 2023 fares unveiled

The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) had already announced that its pre-Hajj operation would start on May 21 and continue till August 12 during which the national flag carrier would lift 38,000 pilgrims to Saudi Arabia.

“Pre Hajj operation will commence from 1st Zilqad till 4th Zilhajj, 1444 corresponding to Gregorian date 21st May till 22nd June 2023 (subject to moon sighting),” according to PIA Hajj circular.

The national flag carrier has decided to charge fares in US dollars for the second year in a row and fixed the fares for pilgrims going to Saudi Arabia under the private Hajj scheme from $870 to $1180 for the Southern region that includes Karachi, Quetta, Sukkur, Hyderabad.

This decision came after the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony last month decided to allocate a 50% special quota in the Government Hajj Scheme-2023 for the pilgrims who will pay in US dollars.

On the other hand, the airfares for the pilgrims from the northern region were in the range of $910 to $1,220. The northern sector includes Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar, Multan, and other cities.

The cost of a complete government Hajj scheme-based pilgrimage would be Rs1.25 million.

Facilities for pilgrims

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had vowed that the government would provide all possible facilities to the pilgrims intending to perform Hajj this year.

The financial czar made the remarks while chairing a meeting to review progress on Hajj Scheme 2023 in Islamabad in the first week of the current month.

“Hajj is a sacred religious obligation and the government will facilitate the Hujjaj in every possible manner,” he had said.

The secretary of the religious affairs ministry had informed the meeting that receipt of applications for the Hajj-2023 was closed on the 31st of last month as per the government’s Hajj policy.

It was also informed that 72,869 applications had been received in the banks against the quota of 44,190 of the government’s regular scheme.