With around 179,000 Pakistanis expected to visit Saudi Arabia for Haj 2024, the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Friday announced to hold the draw for the regular Haj scheme on December 28 (Thursday).
In a statement, the ministry’s spokesperson Muhammad Umar Butt also revealed that more than 66,000 applications have been received in the regular Haj scheme so far.
The statement from the ministry comes as the extended application submission deadline for the regular scheme expires today (Friday).
Furthermore, the spokesperson also announced that the submission application deadline for the sponsorship scheme has been extended till December 31 in response to the requests made by overseas Pakistanis.
The government, in its bid to attract valuable foreign exchange in the wake of depleting forex reserves, has allocated 25,000 seats in the sponsorship scheme; those paying their dues in dollars from abroad will be declared as “winners” without the need for ballotting.
The nine-day extension for the scheme comes as earlier Geo News reported that the ministry was “alarmed” after only 2,800 Haj applications were received in the sponsorship scheme.
Not only had the ministry written to the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis to apprise Pakistanis living abroad about the Haj application filing process, but also decided to approach the Ministry of Information — after reaching out to interior and foreign ministries.
Additionally, the ministry’s statement highlighted that Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) had instructed airlines to submit their Haj flight schedule by January 2, 2024.
The government has also announced the launch of a mobile application specifically designed to digitalise Haj 2024.
The application — developed by the National Information Technology Board (NITB) — will provide information that is collected from the application form i.e., personal information, group information, Mehram information, helper information, additional facilities, Haj dues, nominee information, and applicant’s bank account details, caretaker Minister for IT Dr Umar Saif revealed.
Pilgrims can access information about their Haj group, including group members’ details, the minister added.
It is pertinent to know that half of the 179,000 Haj seats secured by Pakistan are reserved for private Haj operators.
Meanwhile, around 89,605 Pakistanis are expected to perform Haj under the government scheme which will cost around Rs1,075,000 — Rs100,000 less than that of the previous year.
Furthermore, the government has also introduced both long and short-term packages spanning over 38 to 42 and 20 to 25 days, respectively.
Meanwhile, women, for the first time in history, will have the opportunity to undertake the sacred journey without the traditional requirement of a male companion.