Govt promises to review Hajj policy after opposition protest

Islamabad: The government on Friday pledged to review Hajj policy 2019 after opposition staged protest during Senate session. Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan informed the House that the government is making efforts to provide maximum relief to intending pilgrims in meeting Hajj expenses. While responding to a call attention notice moved by Jamat-e-Islami Senator Mushtaq Ahmed regarding the policy, he said recent hike in Hajj expenses was a result of increased expenditure in Saudi Arabia which is beyond control of Pakistani government. He said the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) government deliberately did not increase Hajj expenses in 2017-18 due to election year. Ali Muhammad Khan said seventy percent of Hajj expenditures are incurred in Saudi Arabia and the government of Pakistan cannot control them. He said buildings rent was increased from Rs 60900 to 94185. Cost of transportation increased from Rs 9000 to 13104, food charges from Rs 23000 to 38000, Madina accommodation from 23200 to 40000, train charges from 7250 to 20000 rupees, Qurbani from Rs 13050 to 19451 while cost of air travel has gone up by Rs 17000. The Minister of State said devaluation of Pakistani rupee has also caused surge in Hajj expenses. Ali Muhammad Khan said compulsory Hajj charges have gone up from 31,813 to 70,000 rupees, expenditure at Mushair from 25,520 to 42,000, luggage charges from 580 to 819 rupees, while arrival snacks presented to pilgrims at airports, express service at airport, and Zamzam charges each increased from 290 to 409 rupees. Earlier, lambasting the steep hike in the new Hajj policy, opposition senators on Friday termed it as a “drone attack on pilgrims.” During the senate session, Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani directed Finance Minister Asad Umer to offer subsidy for the holy pilgrimage as the incumbent government assured to reconsider the policy for decrease in Hajj expenses. Senator Mushtaq Ahmed termed the first Hajj Policy of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government as disappointing, adding that the government even turned down a subsidy demand of Rs. 45,000 from the Ministry of Religious Affairs. The House has now been prorogued due to lack of quorum.