ISLAMABAD: The government has announced that Hajj charges for the year 2018 will be the same as they were in 2017, according to a report by a private media outlet.
Announcing the Haj Policy 2018 on Wednesday, Minister for Religious Affairs Sardar Muhammad Yousuf said there would be a special quota for the elderly to facilitate senior citizens.
He said that 179,210 Pakistanis would perform Haj next year and a special quota of 10,000 had been allocated for applicants above the age of 80 years.
The minister said that Haj charges would remain Rs280,000 for intending pilgrims proceeding from northern parts of the country, including Islamabad and Lahore, and Rs270,000 for those going from southern areas, including Karachi.
Under the new Haj policy, 60 per cent applicants or 179,210 intending pilgrims would perform Haj under the government scheme and the rest would perform the religious duty through private Haj operators.
The minister said that it was a longstanding demand of the intending pilgrims belonging to remote areas of the country for increasing the number of private Haj operators to create a healthy competition among them.
“New companies will be incorporated and a decision in this regard will be taken by a high-level committee already working on it,” the minister added.
He said that an agreement with the Saudi government for Haj 2018 would be finalised in February next year. He said that shortcomings and problems faced by the pilgrims in previous years would not be experienced by the intending pilgrims next year as improvements were being made each year to provide maximum facilities to the people.
The government has decided to maintain the ‘hardship quota’ at two per cent of the total intending pilgrims under the government Haj scheme.
The hardship quota is reserved seats for ‘broken family’, newly-born infant cases and applicants belonging to far-flung or rural areas, including Gilgit-Baltistan and Balochistan.
Under the so-called broken family quota, the husband will be allowed to accompany his wife if he remains unsuccessful in the balloting. And in case of a child (male or female) under 16 years of age, his/her father, brother or an elder member of the same family will accompany him/her.
The religious affairs ministry had decreased the hardship quota from five to three per cent in the Haj Policy 2016 to accommodate the maximum number of intending pilgrims through an open balloting.
The minister said his ministry was holding talks with all stakeholders to reduce the duration of Haj operations from 38 to 30 days, adding that it was possible due to the availability of efficient air and land mobility.