Pakistan lauds Saudi efforts as 2m head for Umrah in Ramadan

Pakistani pilgrims upon their arrival in Jeddah. (AFP)
Updated 23 May 2019
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Pakistan lauds Saudi efforts as 2m head for Umrah in Ramadan

  • The government of Saudi Arabia makes special arrangements each year for the pilgrims

ISLAMABAD: Nearly 2 million Pakistanis are expected to perform Umrah during Ramadan this year, officials at the Pakistani Ministry of Religious Affairs told Arab News.

The number of Pakistanis performing Umrah “keeps increasing every year,” said ministry spokesman Imran Siddique, adding that 1.5 million Pakistanis did so last year.

“The government of Saudi Arabia makes special arrangements each year for the pilgrims, which includes exceptional suhoor and iftar meals,” he said.

The ministry is in touch with relevant Saudi authorities “to ensure the best possible facilities for pilgrims this year,” he added.

Pakistani travel and tour operators have introduced special Umrah packages that include scheduled trips to Makkah and Madinah.

“Our business increases around 10-fold during Ramadan because the majority of people want to perform Umrah during the holy month,” Abuzar Butt, manager of Bhagwal Travel Operators, told Arab News.

Tour operators start booking hotel accommodation in Makkah and Madinah, as well as air tickets, several months ahead of Ramadan due to high demand. 

“We’ve never heard of any complaints from our customers regarding their stay and facilities in Saudi Arabia during the pilgrimage,” Butt said.

One of Pakistan’s most beloved actresses, Sarah Khan, wrote on Instagram: “There is no place like Madinah. This is where I was born and this is where I belong. May every Muslim get to see this place Insha’Allah (God willing).”

Celebrated actor Muneeb Butt wrote on Instagram: “Alhamdulilah (thank God) 1st Umrah done!,” He captioned one of his photos: “Don’t have words to express that feeling when we saw Haram for the first time … Allah O Akbar.”

Umrah, unlike Hajj, is not obligatory for Muslims, but holds major religious significance and spiritual importance.


Bangladesh police kill three suspected Rohingya traffickers; rescue 15 refugees

Updated 25 June 2019
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Bangladesh police kill three suspected Rohingya traffickers; rescue 15 refugees

  • The group of smuggled refugees included a number of girls
  • Bangladeshi authorities sent the refugees to two different camps after questioning

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh: Bangladesh police killed three people suspected of trying to smuggle 15 Rohingya Muslim refugees to Malaysia in a clash on Tuesday near the South Asian nation’s main refugee camp, an official said, the second such incident in as many months.
Nearly 900,000 Rohingya who fled a military-led crackdown in neighboring Buddhist-dominated Myanmar in 2017 live in Kutupalong, the world’s largest refugee camp, and other temporary settlements in Bangladesh’s beach town of Cox’s Bazar.
“On sensing the presence of our team, they fired on police, and police also responded,” said Prodip Kumar Das, a police official in the nearby town of Teknaf.
The men attempting to smuggle the refugees, who included some girls, were shot and died on the way to hospital, Das added. The refugees were rescued and sent to two different camps after initial questioning.
The clash, around 30 km from Kutupalong, followed a tip-off to police, Das told Reuters, adding that they had retrieved three locally-made guns and 15 rounds of ammunition.
The men were themselves Rohingya known to be human traffickers living in the area since their arrival in Bangladesh before 2017, he added.
Rohingya civilians who left Myanmar have said they faced atrocities at the hands of its armed forces but almost all such accusations have been denied by the authorities.
With doubts over whether they will ever return to Myanmar, some refugees in Bangladesh are being drawn toward drugs and violence, say people in the area and aid workers.
The risks of being trafficked have increased as refugees are lured by the promise of work. Anti-trafficking groups fear that routes through the Bay of Bengal are being used to smuggle out Rohingya refugees.
In recent months, police and the coast guard have rescued several dozens of them. Last month police killed two suspected smugglers in a gun fight in a nearby area.