The Senate Standing Committee on Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony convened at Parliament House, with Senator Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri presiding over the meeting. The committee’s primary agenda was a critical discussion on a recent letter from Saudi Arabia proposing a drastic reduction in the number of Hajj operators in Pakistan, from 905 to a mere 46, a national daily has reported.
Caretaker Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony, Aneeq Ahmed, shed light on Saudi Arabia’s intention to enhance facilities for pilgrims, citing the letter’s distribution to all Muslim nations. However, the Senate Committee voiced concerns over the proposed reduction, recommending an exemption for Hajj operators in 2024 and urging an increase in the Saudi government’s suggested number to 100 operators.
During the session, officials provided insights into the 2023 Hajj, revealing a quota of 179,210 pilgrims, evenly split between the government and private sectors. Additionally, discussions revolved around the expansion of the Road to Makkah Project, potentially extending its reach from Islamabad Airport to Karachi and Lahore, aiming to accommodate more Hujjaj.
In an effort to enhance accessibility and manageability, the Ministry of Religious Affairs proposed a shorter duration for the Hajj pilgrimage in the coming year, giving pilgrims the flexibility to choose a duration lasting between 18 to 20 days. This move signifies a significant step towards facilitating a smoother and more accessible Hajj experience.