Pakistan Ambassador Mohammed Naeem Khan and Consul General Aftab Khokhar welcomed the first group of 369 Haj pilgrims from Pakistan, who arrived at King Abdulaziz International Airport on a Shaheen Airlines flight on Monday.
Pilgrims from all over Pakistan would be arriving in groups in Saudi Arabia for Haj.
Under an agreement between the two countries, Shaheen Airlines will operate 76 flights to fly in 20,500 pilgrims, of whom 14,000 are under government schemes and 6,500 under private tour operators.
A total of 143,368 Pakistani pilgrims will perform Haj this year, with Pakistan International Airline (PIA) accounting for 169 flights carrying around 67,000 pilgrims and Saudi Arabian Airlines transporting the remaining 55,868 pilgrims. There are 85,696 pilgrims performing Haj under the government scheme this year and the remaining 57,672 under 730 Haj group organizers.
This year, the Pakistan Haj mission hired 1,000 Haj servants (known in Arabic as “khudam al hujaj”) from Pakistan, besides hiring about 700 Haj servants locally to assist pilgrims.
The Haj committee rented 126 buildings to accommodate the pilgrims. The accommodation facilities have been divided into three categories depending on their distance from the Grand Mosque. The blue category will house 2,870 pilgrims and is 900 meters from the Haram, while the green category, located at a distance of two km, will lodge 7,000 pilgrims. White-category accommodation, located at a distance of 8 km, will house 77,000 pilgrims.
The Haj committee has also arranged special bus shuttle services for pilgrims. In addition, they will also depute officials to ensure that no violations are committed. There will be complaint boxes in which letters can be dropped by pilgrims for redress.
Pakistani government scheme pilgrims will be able to use the Mashair train and sacrificial vouchers are also being procured for them from the IDB.
Syed Akif, Haj director-general at the Pakistan mission, said Pakistani pilgrims who had been charged for accommodation at actual rates, would be given a partial refund.
The actual rate this year varies from SR2,100 to SR3,700 for white-category buildings, with the average lodging costing SR2,842 (inclusive of transport). In Madinah, the rate of accommodation is fixed at SR500 per day for a stay of eight days and accommodation has been arranged by 10 accommodation groups.
The Haj Mission established a Haj control headquarters in the Azizia district in Makkah, which will be supervised by Wajid Zia, director of Haj servants, and Syed Akif.
There will be different cells in the headquarters to assist pilgrims during Haj. The Pakistan Haj mission has divided 126 buildings into nine sectors and there will be a medical dispensary in each sector, while the main hospital has been set up at the headquarters.
A 50-bed hospital will be available at the central headquarters with medical facilities, including an operation theater, OPD, X-ray center and ECG to tend to pilgrims’ health concerns.
Helplines on 8001166622, 009124235880135 and 080077000 have been established for complaints.