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ISLAMABAD: The first flight with pilgrims for the Hajj pilgrimage 2023 will depart from Karachi International airport at 4:50am today (Sunday).

Speaking at a presser, the Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Senator Talha Mahmood also said that almost 175,000 people would perform Hajj this year on both government and private schemes.

He said that ministry had refunded Rs55,000 as sacrificial money to both regular and sponsorship scheme pilgrims in their bank accounts.

According to him, earlier it had been decided that the ministry would arrange sacrifice animal for the pilgrims but due to delay in making a decision in this regard, the majority of pilgrims had arranged this sacred rite on their own.

He said that both regular and sponsorship schemes pilgrims should collect Rs55,000 from their respective bank accounts before their departure for Hajj as the same would not be reimbursed to them in Saudi Arabia.

He said that Saudi government-run Qurbani booths would be available near government residences, providing a hassle-free process for purchasing the coupons.

“In the event of any issues or difficulties in acquiring the Qurbani amount, the complaint could be lodged with the accounts officer of the ministry directly at 0519208552,” he added.

He said this year more than 26,000 pilgrims would benefit from the Road to Makkah project from Islamabad International Airport, a notable increase from the 16,000 pilgrims served last year.

“This efficient facility is aimed at streamlining the immigration and customs procedures for the intending pilgrims departing from the federal capital, enabling them to swiftly embark on their spiritual journey,” he added.

He said that the initiative would expedite the processing of pilgrims at the Saudi airport in order to minimize wait times, allowing them to proceed directly to their designated buses upon arrival.

He emphasized that the government’s commitment to expanding Road to Makkah project to other airports in Pakistan, stating that plan was underway to extend this convenient service to additional cities, Lahore and Karachi next year.

“The recent visit of the Saudi deputy interior minister to Pakistan had been instrumental in strengthening bilateral cooperation,” he added.

Anticipating a record-breaking number of pilgrims, he affirmed that meticulous arrangements had been made to ensure a smooth Hajj experience for the estimated 175,000 Pakistanis who would perform the pilgrimage this year.

He clarified that the provision of free Hajj would not be permitted, and instead, efforts were being made to provide comprehensive assistance to the pilgrims, including dedicated Hajj assistants to guide them throughout their journey.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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