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LAHORE: While promising to take up all Hajj related matters with Saudi authorities in consultation with 65 ministers of Muslim countries, the Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Mufti Abdul Shakoor on Saturday said work on the Hajj quota for the members and workers of the Chambers of Commerce and Industry is well under way.

He was speaking at a meeting at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry. LCCI President Kashif Anwar shed light on various issues being faced by the Haj and Umrah operators while Senior Vice President Chaudhry Zafar Mahmood, Chairman Evacuee Trust Property Board Habibur-Rehman Gilani and Convener LCCI Standing Committee Abdul Jabar Anjum also spoke on the occasion.

The Federal Minister said that the Ministry will find a way soon for Haj and Umrah quota system for LCCI members and staff. “Our relations with the business community are very close to our heart”, Federal Minister said and added that all the suggestions and demands, presented by the LCCI President Kashif Anwar, are right and will be forwarded to the concerned platforms. He said that the suggestions related to the Ministry of Religious Affairs should be given in writing that will be resolved as soon as possible.

Minister said that Islamic economic system is based on the welfare of all humanity. He said that the business in a right way is also worship. He said that the ranks of righteous businessmen are high in Islam.

LCCI President Kashif Anwar said that keeping in view the current economic situation, there is an urgent need for amnesty scheme so that the dollars that people have in Pakistan but not declared cane can be circulated in economy. By encouraging people through amnesty scheme, the government can bring a lot of foreign exchange into the country. He requested the Federal Minister to raise this proposal in the national assembly.

He said that private Haj and Umrah operators are facing many problems due to currency fluctuation. Last year, the price of Rial gone up by Rs. 3 in a short period of only twenty days after announcing the package. He said that in the previous years, Rs. 4 to 5 had also been witnessed which is impossible for any private organization to bear.

He said that the private Hajj and Umrah operators have requested that the Ministry of Finance should get an approval for them to open a foreign currency account to keep Dollars and Rials. This will not only reduce the burden on the State Bank of Pakistan but will also not affect the tour operators due to currency fluctuation. If it is not possible, private Hajj and Umrah Tour operators should be given the facility to block dollars according to their packages so that they are not affected by the rupee devaluation.

The LCCI President said that the monitoring system in Saudi Arabia should be developed in a modern way and only those people should be made part of the monitoring team who understand the Hajj system. The people, who have negative thoughts against the tour operators, should not be appointed to this important duty.

He said that in 2020, Federal Board Revenue had exempted Hajj and Umrah operators from Turnover Tax but now this exemption has been withdrawn although these companies do not fall under turnover tax. This exemption should be restored. He said that imposition of fixed tax can also be considered.

Kashif Anwar said that there is a dire need to revamp the system of monitoring of private Hajj organizers. Apart from this, while fixing the package of the private Hajj scheme, other expenses including the fare of airlines must be kept in mind so that there is no injustice to any party.

He said that one of the major concerns of our private Hajj and Umrah operators is that during Hajj and Umrah, private operators are harassed by the government monitoring teams and mistreated like delays in flights etc. These reservations should also be addressed.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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