Minister for Religious Affairs Mufti Abdul Shakoor Friday announced Haj Policy 2023 according to which 179,210 Pakistanis would make a pilgrimage this year.
Addressing a press conference here, the minister said the government would receive $194 million from the overseas Pakistanis under the sponsorship scheme. The same amount would be spent on payment of Haj dues in Saudi Arabia.
Mufti Shakoor said Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar committed to arrange 90 million dollars, as a total of 284 million dollars would be required for payment of dues to the Saudi authorities.
Owing to depreciation of Pakistani currency, the Haj expenses as compared to the last year have increased by over 50%.
The estimated expenses for the intending pilgrims from the northern region that ends at Rahim Yar Khan would be Rs1,175,000 (Regular Haj Scheme) and $4,325 (Sponsorship Scheme).
Similarly, the expenses for intending pilgrims from the southern region would be Rs1,165,000 (Regular Scheme) and 4,285 US dollars (Sponsorship Scheme)
The regular and private scheme Haj operators each would get a quota of 89,605. However, a quota of 44,802 would be deducted from both schemes for the sponsorship scheme for which the Haj expenses would be received in foreign exchange from abroad.
The minister made it clear that no payment in foreign exchange would be received from within the country. The successful applicants under the sponsorship scheme would be selected on first come first served basis while balloting would be conducted for selection of intending pilgrims under the regular scheme if the number of intending pilgrims increased beyond the allotted quota.
The minister said depending on permission from the Ministry of Finance, the designated branches of 14 schedule banks would start receiving applications from March 15 or 16.
The applicants for Regular Haj scheme should have single or joint bank account.
Balloting for the Regular Haj scheme would be conducted during the first week of next month.
The Saudi government has also allowed performance of Haj for people of age above 65. Those who performed Haj in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2022 would not be eligible to apply.
The minister maintained that there would be no free Haj. However, the government has reserved 3% quota (2,688) under the hardship scheme. A total of 300 seats have been reserved under the labour quota for the companies registered with the Employees Old Age Benefit Institution (EOBI).
The intending pilgrims should be vaccinated against Covid-19 while wearing mask would be compulsory both at open and closed places.
The minister said the Haj expenses for Pakistanis were still less than the expenses charged from the pilgrims in Bangladesh and India.