ISLAMABAD: The Caretaker Minister for Religious Affairs, Aneeq Ahmed, unveiled the Haj Policy 2024, declaring a reduction of Rs100,000 in expenses for the holy pilgrimage compared to the previous year.
Ahmed stated that scheduled banks will start receiving applications for the regular scheme from November 27 to December 12.
He highlighted that the government’s Haj Policy for 2024 introduces both long-duration (38 to 42 days) and short-duration (20 to 25 days) packages. The cost for the upcoming Haj under the government scheme has been set at Rs1,075,000, a decrease from the Rs1,175,000 charged for this year’s Haj. Ahmed assured that despite the cost reduction, there will be no compromise in the quality of arrangements.
However, for the short-duration package, an additional Rs75,000 will be charged. For applicants from the southern region, the expenses for Haj will amount to Rs1,065,000, with an extra Rs75,000 for the short-duration package, and an additional Rs60,000 for sacrificial animals.
The minister disclosed that Pakistan’s Haj quota stands at 179,210, to be equally divided between the government and private Haj operators. Negotiations are ongoing with airlines to potentially reduce airfare for the Haj operation, with plans to transfer the relief obtained to the pilgrims’ accounts.
Ahmed mentioned that pilgrims choosing a shorter stay in Madina could receive a refund of Rs35,000 if they opt for a four-day stay instead of eight days.
One significant feature of the Haj Policy is the permission granted to women without a mahram to apply for Haj, following the recommendations of the Council of Islamic Ideology. However, such women must obtain consent from their parents or husbands and choose a group comprising trustworthy individuals.
Individuals who have performed Haj in the last five years are ineligible to submit applications. However, certain exceptions include Mehram-accompanied first-time female pilgrims and applicants under the sponsorship scheme.
Both the government’s regular scheme and the private scheme will have a quota of 89,605 each, with 25,000 spots reserved for the sponsorship scheme in the government scheme and 50% in the private scheme.
Applicants under the sponsorship scheme must submit expenses in foreign exchange ($4,015) and will be accommodated on a first-come, first-served basis.
Haj 2024 will be digitalized, providing pilgrims with a mobile application for offline use, enabling various features, including lodging complaints. Pilgrims will receive free-of-cost items such as a SIM with seven GB of data, a suitcase with a QR code, Ihram belts for men, an abaya for women, and shoe bags.
Furthermore, under the Road to Makkah project, Karachi has been included alongside Islamabad airport, and efforts are underway to request Lahore’s inclusion. This project entails Saudi teams conducting immigration, security, and customs checks for intending pilgrims before their departure for the Kingdom.