ISLAMABAD: A team of Saudi officials arrived in Islamabad on Sunday to set up a pre-departure immigration facility for Pakistani Hajj pilgrims at the capital’s international airport, a government official said.
As part of Saudi Arabia’s Road to Makkah initiative, which was finalized during crown prince Muhammad Bin Salman’s maiden visit to Pakistan in February, close to 30,000 Pakistani pilgrims will be cleared for immigration and customs prior to their departure during this year’s pilot project in Islamabad, with plans to extend the facility to other airports in major cities.
“The Saudi team will assume charge of the immigration process on the airport from tomorrow (Monday),” he said.
Hajj flights for 200,000 Pakistanis making their way to Saudi Arabia are scheduled to begin from July 4th.
Upon their arrival in Islamabad, the Saudi team was received by a senior member of the Ministry of Religious Affairs, Zeenat Hussain Bangash.
A Saudi delegation of immigration and passport officials had visited Pakistan in April this year led by Saudi Arabia’s director general of immigration, Major General Sulaiman Al-Yahya, and evaluated existing immigration facilities at airports in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar.
“This year the immigration of Hajj pilgrims will be done in Islamabad airport only, as a pilot project,” Siddique said, and added that the process for the provision of e-visas to pilgrims had already begun by the ministry.
Siddique said all ten Hajj camps across the country had started providing pilgrims with their passports, tickets, identification lockets and luggage stickers to prepare them for departure. This year, the Hajj will take place between August 9th and 14th.
Prior to their departure for Saudi Arabia, all pilgrims are required to gather at one of many designated Hajj camps for vaccinations and to be handed over travel documents.
“Pakistani pilgrims will receive their luggage at their respective residences in Saudi Arabia without any hassle,” ministry spokesman Siddique said. “We are thankful to the Saudi government for all the cooperation.”
Pre-clearance at domestic airports will save pilgrims between 10 to 12 hours of waiting time at Jeddah airport, according to a statement released by the ministry of religious affairs.