In a groundbreaking press conference held in the federal capital, the Caretaker Minister of Religious Affairs revealed that, for the first time in Pakistan's history, the cost of Hajj is lower than the previous year. The minister proudly announced a reduction of one lakh rupees, bringing the total cost down significantly without compromising on any essential aspects of the pilgrimage.
Minister Aneeq Ahmed assured the public that all arrangements for Hajj have been meticulously completed, including thorough inspections of transportation and hotels. He expressed the government's commitment to further reducing airfare, with ongoing discussions to make this vital aspect of the pilgrimage more affordable for all.
A significant development unveiled during the press conference was the digitization of Hajj in 2024. Minister Ahmed detailed plans to provide each pilgrim with a dedicated app to ensure their seamless journey. Through this app, pilgrims will have access to 7 GB of data in a SIM card, facilitating communication during their 40-day pilgrimage, mirroring their usage in Pakistan.
The announcement coincided with the Federal Cabinet's approval of amendments in the Hajj Policy 2024. A total of 179,210 Pakistanis will have the privilege of undertaking Hajj in the upcoming year.
Under the revised Hajj policy, unused sponsorship quotas from public and private schemes will be returned to the Government of Saudi Arabia. Additionally, a foolproof monitoring system will be implemented to oversee the financial arrangements of Hajj group organizers.
In a significant departure from previous policies, the new guidelines eliminate age restrictions for Hajj duty. Even children under 10 years of age will now be eligible to perform the sacred pilgrimage. Private Hajj schemes will relax the requirement for accompanying attendants for individuals above 80 years old.
Hajj Group Organizers are mandated to enter into agreements with Hajj to hire local assistants during the pilgrimage. Violation of this provision may result in fines and blacklisting of the organizer.
Notably, the new policy aims to reduce the hardship Hajj quota and allocates 50% of the quota of local assistants to Pakistani students studying in local universities in Saudi Arabia. These students will serve as welfare staff during the pilgrimage, further strengthening the ties between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.;