Pakistan to be included in Makkah Road initiative for Haj pilgrims

Monday, December 10, 2018

Saudi Gazette

JEDDAH — Saudi Arabia and Pakistan on Sunday signed the bilateral Haj agreement for the year 2019. Minister of Haj and Umrah Mohammed Saleh Benten and visiting Pakistan Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Pir Noorul Haq Qadri signed the agreement at the minister’s office in Makkah.

Deputy Minister of Haj and Umrah Dr. Abdulfattah Bin Sulaiman Mashat, Secretary for Haj Affairs Hussain Sherif and other senior officials from the Saudi side while Religious Affairs Secretary Muhammed Mushtaq Ahmad and Director General of Haj Dr. Sajid Yousfani from the Pakistani side attended the discussions held prior to the signing of the agreement.

As part of the Kingdom’s initiative to sign annual bilateral Haj agreements with Islamic countries, the Haj minister received the Pakistani delegation, according to a statement issued by the ministry.

Besides, Pakistan the minister also received the delegation from Jordan, headed by Awqaf and Islamic Affairs Minister Abdul Nasser Abul Bassal.

The visiting ministers commended the Haj arrangements made by Saudi Arabia and hailed the services being offered by Kingdom to pilgrims, the statement added.

The Pakistani minister said the effective usage of technology has significantly eased the performance of the Haj ritual.

The Haj quota for Pakistan for the year 2019 will be 184,210, which is an increase of 5,000, compared with last year’s 179,210.

Pakistan is set to implement E-Haj visa program from the next season.

Pakistan will be included in the Makkah Road scheme to implement Proof of Concept (POC) system for pre-clearance at the Karachi airport, said a senior Pakistan official.

The POC system enables immigration checks in home countries at the time of departure, instead of upon arrival in the Kingdom. The scheme known as the Makkah Road significantly reduces the waiting time for pilgrims at the Saudi airports upon arrival.

The official said 35,000 pilgrims from the Sindh province would be covered in the first phase of the scheme, which will be expanded to other parts of the country subsequently, the official said.