Kabul to impose fine on second-time Hajj pilgrims

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Afghan government officials discuss Hajj preparations at the yard of a center for Hajjis in Kabul on Sunday. This year 30,000 Afghan are set to perform Hajj. (AN photo)
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Afghan government officials discuss Hajj preparations at the yard of a center for Hajjis in Kabul on Sunday. This year 30,000 Afghan are set to perform Hajj. (AN photo)
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Afghan government officials discuss Hajj preparations at the yard of a center for Hajjis in Kabul on Sunday. This year 30,000 Afghan are set to perform Hajj. (AN photo)
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Afghan government officials discuss Hajj preparations at the yard of a center for Hajjis in Kabul on Sunday. This year 30,000 Afghan are set to perform Hajj. (AN photo)
Updated 03 July 2019
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Kabul to impose fine on second-time Hajj pilgrims

  • Move to ensure all pilgrims get an opportunity to apply in limited Afghan quota
  • Tens of thousands wait for years to get the chance to visit, but for various reasons, many of them cannot go

KABUL: Faced with a huge backlog of applicants, with some waiting for years to perform Hajj, the Afghan government has introduced a $500 fine for those visiting Saudi Arabia for the second time, officials said on Tuesday.

The country’s Ministry of Religious Trust and Hajj has also launched a campaign to encourage pilgrims to avoid frequent visits and instead help poor countrymen as the humanitarian crisis and poverty grinds on, the head of publication for the ministry said.

“We have set up a database showing names and details of visitors and those making a second or third trip without a reason will be fined $500,” Nader Darez told Arab News.

Afghanistan’s annual quota for visitors to Islam’s holiest site, Makkah, stands at 30,000 people. Tens of thousands of people wait for years to get the chance to visit, but for various reasons, one being corruption, many of them cannot go.

Darez said as part of a move to cut graft and embezzlement several government organs this year will oversee the Hajj arrangement.

The first flights carrying pilgrims to Saudi Arabia will depart in two weeks’ time and government has yet to complete training guides and teachers for the Hajjis, he said.

The cost of one visit stands at $2,750 while tens of thousands perform Umrah during other times of the year. After the visit some pilgrims, as part of tradition, throw lavish food parties and give expensive gifts back home.

However, some have put an end to this practice.

Mir Agha, a resident from Kabul who has been to Hajj, welcomed the government move for trying to deter frequent visitors through the imposition of a fine and its campaign for encouraging them to help the poorer people in Afghanistan.

“If you are rich and capable physically, you are required to visit Makkah once in your entire life. Repeated visits are a waste of money and have no remuneration. Instead, God wants us to help our poor relatives and neighbors with that money,” he told Arab News.

Taj Mohammad Ahmadzada, who has been to Hajj said patronage, nepotism and graft still existed in Hajj visits, but added that the government had succeeded in putting forward some measures to make sure that visitors have better accommodation, transport and food.

“We have a saying that you can mock with anything, but not with the beard of your grandfather. People pay bribes for many things here and to pay a bribe for going to Hajj is a biggest sin both for the taker and giver,” he said.


Duterte ‘seriously considering’ cutting ties with Iceland over UN rights probe

Updated 16 July 2019
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Duterte ‘seriously considering’ cutting ties with Iceland over UN rights probe

  • Iceland spearheaded a resolution that asked the UN’s top human rights body to look into the Philippines' deadly anti-drug crackdown
  • Philippine police have killed more than 6,600 suspected drug dealers in sting operations since Duterte took office in 2016.

MANILA: The Philippine president is “seriously considering” cutting diplomatic ties with Iceland, which spearheaded a resolution that asked the UN’s top human rights body to look into the thousands of deaths of suspects under his anti-drug crackdown.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo told reporters late Monday that the Iceland-initiated resolution which was adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in a vote last week in Geneva showed “how the Western powers are scornful of our sovereign exercise of protecting our people from the scourge of prohibited drugs.”
Panelo says President Rodrigo Duterte “is seriously considering cutting diplomatic relations with Iceland” for initiating the “grotesquely one-sided, outrageously narrow, and maliciously partisan” resolution.
Human rights groups, however, have lauded the resolution as crucial to helping end the drug killings and bringing perpetrators to justice.
The Philippines’ highest-ranking lawmaker said on Monday a UN resolution to probe the country’s bloody war on drugs should be ignored, and its chief backer Iceland be investigated instead for human rights abuses in allowing abortion.
“They have more unborn babies that they have aborted or killed. There are more killings in abortion than the drug pushers who are fighting the police,” Senate President Vicente Sotto told ANC news channel.
The Nordic nation lacks moral grounds to lecture the Philippines on human rights, Sotto said. “So we should disregard that resolution.”
His remarks are the latest in a series of comments from lawmakers urging the government to not cooperate after the UN Human Rights Council on Thursday adopted Iceland’s resolution to investigate thousands of deaths under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-drugs campaign.
Police have killed more than 6,600 suspected drug dealers in sting operations since Duterte took office in 2016. Critics and rights group said authorities summarily execute suspects, which the police deny.
“The criminals can fight back, the babies cannot. What human rights are they talking about?” Sotto said, adding that drug dealers that fight back and destroy families lose their human rights.
His comments about abortion echoed those made by incoming Senator Imee Marcos, the daughter of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Rights groups, which hailed the UN vote as a step toward accountability, point out that the bloody anti-narcotics campaign is marked by systematic cover-ups, planted evidence and impunity.
The president’s spokesman on Monday warned countries not to meddle with the state’s affairs.
“All incidents in the war on drugs are tallied, recorded. All they have to do is ask us, not to pre-judge us,” presidential spokesman Spokesman Panelo told a regular news conference. “It behoves them to render respect to a sovereign state.”
Duterte on Friday mocked Iceland as an ice-eating nation without understanding of his country’s problems.