Saudi Arabia, Pakistan sign pact to facilitate Hajj and Umrah travel

Thursday, May 18, 2023

JEDDAH — Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have announced the signing of an agreement to implement the ‘Road to Makkah’ project aimed at simplifying the immigration procedures for Pakistani Hajj and Umrah pilgrims, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

The two countries signed another agreement aimed at issuing Pakistani passports for members of the Burmese community residing in Saudi Arabia, Okaz newspaper reported quoting sources in the Pakistani consulate general in Jeddah.

Saudi Deputy Minister of Interior Dr. Nasir bin Abdulaziz Al-Dawood and Pakistani Minister of Interior Rana Sanaullah signed the agreements in Islamabad on Wednesday at a ceremony attended by Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki at the Prime Minister's residence. Pakistan's Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Talha Mahmood, Federal Minister for Narcotics Control Nawabzada Shahzain Bugti, and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Tariq Fatemi were also present, the Associated Press of Pakistan reported.

Under the ‘Road to Makkah’ agreement, the Pakistani Hajj and Umrah pilgrims will be provided with immigration facilities at their embarkation points in Pakistan before their departure to Saudi Arabia to perform the pilgrimage. In the first phase, the service will be available at Islamabad International Airport where around 26,000 pilgrims will benefit from this facility. The Saudi authorities assured that the facility would later be extended to Karachi and Lahore airports as well.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia also signed the minutes of the meeting in which they discussed the issuance of Pakistani passports to some of the Burmese Muslims residing in Saudi Arabia. Pakistan had previously issued passports to nearly 250,000 Burmese Muslims, but those passports were not renewed after 2012 creating some difficulties for them in the Kingdom.

Under the new arrangement, Burmese Muslims and their children will be issued passports to correct their legal status in Saudi Arabia. As per the discussions, a bilateral committee comprising representatives of Saudi Arabia and the Pakistani Ministry of Interior will be formed to work out the modalities of the travel documents for Burmese Muslims and expedite their issuance.