Saudi Arabia increases Pakistan's Haj quota for 2019
Riyadh - The Haj quota for Pakistan was increased to 184,210.
As part of their initiative to sign annual bilateral Haj agreements with Islamic countries, Saudi Arabia included Pakistan in the Makkah Road scheme enabling pre-clearance of Haj pilgrims at the Karachi airport itself.
Minister of Haj and Umrah, Mohammed Saleh Benten, and visiting Pakistan Federal Minister for Religious Affairs, Pir Noorul Haq Qadri, signed the agreement for the year 2019 at the minister's office in Makkah, according to a statement issued by the ministry.
The Haj minister received the Pakistani delegation who hailed the services being offered by the Kingdom to pilgrims, the statement added. The Haj quota for Pakistan was increased to 184,210, for the year 2019, which is an increase of 5,000, as compared to last year's 179,210, according to reports in Saudi Gazette.
Pakistan's inclusion in the Makkah Road scheme will enable the country to implement Proof of Concept (POC) system for pre-clearance at the Karachi airport, said a senior Pakistan official. Moreover, Pakistan is set to implement E-Haj visa program from the next season.
The POC system enables immigration checks in home countries at the time of departure, instead of upon arrival in the Kingdom. This significantly reduces the waiting time for pilgrims at the Saudi airports upon arrival.
The Makkah Road scheme will see 35,000 pilgrims from the Sindh province in the first phase, which will be expanded to other parts of the country subsequently, the Pakistan official said.
Besides Pakistan, the Haj minister also received the delegation from Jordan headed by Awqaf and Islamic Affairs Minister Abdul Nasser Abul Bassal.
While, prior to signing of the agreement, discussions were held in the presence of Deputy Minister of Haj and Umrah Dr. Abdulfattah Bin Sulaiman Mashat, Secretary for Haj Affairs Hussain Sherif and other senior officials from Saudi Arabia and Religious Affairs Secretary Muhammed Mushtaq Ahmad and Director General of Haj Dr. Sajid Yousfani from Pakistan.