Saudi officials’ visit to check Pakistan’s Hajj immigration facilities

Saudi officials’ visit to check Pakistan’s Hajj immigration facilities
In this file photo, Pakistani Muslims wait to pass security as the first pilgrims for the annual Hajj pilgrimage arrive in Jeddah on July 24, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 20 March 2019

Saudi officials’ visit to check Pakistan’s Hajj immigration facilities

Saudi officials’ visit to check Pakistan’s Hajj immigration facilities
  • Kingdom to deploy staff at airports in the country to facilitate pilgrims
  • More than 180,000 to perform Hajj this year

ISLAMABAD: A 14-member delegation from Saudi Arabia is expected to visit Pakistan on March 31 in order to examine immigration facilities at various airports in the country, officials said on Wednesday.
The move is part of measures to facilitate more than 184,000 Hajj pilgrims as part of the Kingdom’s Road to Makkah project.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had formally granted permission to include Pakistan in the “Road to Makkah Project” – an initiative to facilitate pilgrims from across the Muslim world – during his visit to Islamabad in February.
“Pakistan’s inclusion in this project is nothing less than a blessing,” Imran Siddique, spokesman for Ministry of Religious Affairs, told Arab News on Wednesday.
He said that the Saudi delegation, comprising top government officials, would be checking arrangements for a seamless immigration process at the airports.
“They will assess the need of the staff to be deployed at our four major airports including Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar to get the immigration of all the pilgrims done here,” he said.
Terming it as a “great achievement” for Pakistani pilgrims, the spokesman also thanked the Saudi crown prince for extending the facility. Hajj flights from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia will begin from the first week of July.
A total of 184,210 pilgrims from Pakistan will perform Hajj this year, out of which 107,526 Pakistanis will perform Hajj on the government’s quota, while more than 76,000 will be using services offered by private tour and Hajj operators.
Siddique clarified that local immigration facilities will also be extended to those individuals who are not part of the government’s program and are planning their pilgrimage with private tour operators.
During his visit, the Saudi crown prince had signed agreements worth $20 billion in different fields including petrochemicals and renewable energy. “We believe Pakistan is going to be a very very important country in the future and we want to be sure we are part of that,” he said in his address at the inaugural session of the Supreme Coordination Council, co-chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan and the crown prince.
Abuzar Butt, a private tour and Hajj operator, said that the completion of all immigration-related formalities at Pakistani airports will help Pakistani pilgrims, especially the elders, to save a lot of time and hassle.
“The local immigration means our pilgrims will go through the immigration process in Pakistan, saving them the hassle of going to the immigration counters once they reach Saudi Arabia,” he told Arab News.