180,000 Pakistanis to perform Haj this year, says Khursheed Shah

JEDDAH – Haj and Religious Affairs Minister Khursheed Shah on Sunday announced that 180,000 Pakistanis would perform haj this year.
The minister said they had requested Saudi Haj Minister Dr Bandar bin Muhammad al-Hajjar to increase the Hajj quota for Pakistan by 20,000 pilgrims. He said arrangements were being made that 40,000 pilgrims would directly reach Medina this year.
Talking to journalists at a dinner at the residence of Consul General of Pakistan Aftab Khokhar, he said the ministry was trying to hire multi-storey buildings instead of small ones this year to facilitate the pilgrims.
He said new technology, Radio Frequency Identifying System (RFIDs), would be introduced to identify missing pilgrims by affixing a chip with their identity cards.
The minister said the ministry received complaints last year against 70 tour operators who did not entertain hujjaj in accordance with contracts. This time they just gave them warnings. The Saudi haj minister had been requested to ensure installation of air-conditioners in the pilgrims’ residences, increase number of washrooms and make satisfactory residential arrangements for them, Khursheed added.
Meanwhile, Khursheed Shah held a meeting with Saudi Haj Minister Dr Bandar bin Muhammad al-Hajjar and discussed with him the matters of mutual interest.
The minister was accompanied by a team comprising senior Pakistani functionaries, including Religious Affairs Secretary Muhammad Azam Samma, Ambassador of Pakistan to Saudi Arabia Muhammad Naeem Khan, Consul General of Pakistan at Jeddah Aftab A Khokher, Director General Haj Syed Abu Ahmad Akif and others.
The minister who is heading the Pakistani delegation was received the other day at the airport by Consul General Aftab A Khokhar and a representative of the Saudi Haj Ministry.
The Saudi haj minister was accompanied by a team comprising Deputy Minister Sahal Sabban and others. Three director generals of the Haj Ministry from Makkah Mukarramah and Medinah Munawwarah were also present.
The Saudi haj minister welcomed his Pakistani counterpart to the bilateral ministerial meeting held to discuss various issues concerning the performance of the next haj by Pakistani hujjaj. Khursheed Shah praised the Saudi leadership for the steps being taken to facilitate pilgrims from all over the world.
The Saudi side underlined the need for a continuous improvement of pre-arrival training of Pakistani hujjaj and improved operational mechanism to solve problems like delays of buses at Jeddah and Makkah.
Khursheed Shah invited Bandar bin Muhammad Hajjar to visit Pakistan along with his team and this invitation was gladly accepted.
The meeting ended with an exchange of gifts and souvenirs and profuse vote of thanks.

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