ISLAMABAD   -  Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Dr Noor-ul-Haq Qadri said that Saudi Arabia has not announced Haj policy for this year yet, however, Pakistan keeps complete arrangements to send limited pilgrims for Haj.

Talking to Voice of America (VOA), Qadri said that this year’s Haj would be a bit costlier as comparing to the expenses incurred on the Haj pilgrimage last year due to adequate covid SOPs.

However, exact estimation can be made after final announcement of Saudi Arabia regarding SOPs and number of pilgrims.

It would not be possible for Saudi Arabia to make normal arrangements as there’s a little time left for the Haj.

He said Saudi Arabia will be able to make limited arrangements, but it has not confirmed about the number of pilgrims and SOPs. Noor-ul-Haq Qadri illustrated that Pakistan government was in contact with Saudi Arabian authorities and Saudi Arabia also wanted to take major Muslim countries in confidence before the final decision.

He said that Saudi Arabia was making strict SOPs to counter coronavirus during Haj, and Pakistan would be ensuring implementation of these SOPs.

He further said that all pilgrims would have to take negative covid test before departure and upon arrival in Saudi Arabia all pilgrims would have to do 3-day quarantine. Also, covid test would also be mandatory on arrival in Madina from Makkah and on returning back to Makkah. According to Federal Minister, there will be a specific time for every country to perform Tawaf-e-Ziarat and Umrah in the Haram to avoid rush.

The Minister said “Pakistan has the capability to complete arrangements in short time on allotment of Haj quota by Saudi Arabia.” Regarding the issue of Saudi Arabia’s denial to Chinese vaccine, the Minister said, “Pakistan will convince Saudi Arabia to recognise Chinese vaccine as WHO has approved Sinopharm vaccine of China and most of Pakistanis have been administered with the Chinese vaccine.” In the proposed Haj policy, Saudi Arabia has recommended vaccines including Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson's.

Talking about the issue of recommending subjects for Jumma sermons, the Minister said that Government has no intention of limiting the religious freedom but it is aimed at motivating religious scholars to talk about social issues. He said that religious scholars should also talk about issues like cleanliness, child’s rights, women’s inheritance right and mother care as Jumma sermons should be used as a tool of social reforms.

It is pertinent to mention here that Islamic Ideology Council has selected 100 subjects for Jumma sermons on the direction of President Dr Arif Alvi, which was termed by some religious parties as an attempt to curb freedom.

Commenting on Afghan peace process, he said that Pakistan’s role in Afghan peace process should be appreciated.