Saudi decision on cutting Pakistan Hajj groups ‘final’

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The Senate Standing Committee on Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony convened on Tuesday to discuss the implications of the Saudi government’s decision to significantly reduce the number of Pakistani Hajj Group Organizers (HGOs) from 905 to only 46.

Chaired by Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, the committee gathered with the participation of the additional secretary of the religious affairs ministry and a team of senior officials, as well as representatives from the Hajj Organizers Association of Pakistan (HOAP).

During the meeting, it was disclosed that a letter had already been sent to the Saudi Hajj and Umrah Ministry, requesting a postponement of this reduction for the current year and proposing a gradual decrease in the number of group organizers in the following years.

Although the religious affairs ministry eagerly awaited a response from the Saudi authorities, it was emphasized that it was unlikely for the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah to reconsider its decision. The committee recommended that the ministry should prepare for the possibility of the Saudi decision remaining unchanged.

After a thorough discussion, the committee suggested that the Caretaker Minister of Religious Affairs, Aneeq Ahmed, should engage with his Saudi counterpart to advocate Pakistan’s position. Furthermore, the committee directed the Hajj director-general to address the concerns of Hajj pilgrims with the relevant Saudi authorities.

It was also revealed that Saudi authorities had approved a proposal for the launch of the ‘Road to Makkah’ project from Lahore and Karachi airports. The committee proposed extending this facility to airports in Peshawar and Quetta as well.

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