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

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.


Philippines and India agree to strengthen defense, security ties

In this handout photograph taken and released by Indian Presidential Palace on October 18, 2019, India's President Ram Nath Kovind (C-L) attends a press conference with Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte (C-R) at Malacanan Palace in Manila. (AFP)
Updated 53 min 27 sec ago

Philippines and India agree to strengthen defense, security ties

  • The two leaders agreed to strengthen maritime security ties

MANILA: The Philippines and India have agreed to boost defense and security cooperation following talks between President Rodrigo Duterte and his Indian counterpart Ram Nath Kovind on Friday.
Kovind is in Manila as part of a five-day official visit to the Philippines that began on Thursday.
In a joint statement, Duterte said he and Kovind have committed to building a “partnership” between the Philippines and India “that enables us to face challenges to our hard-won progress, jointly and effectively.”
As Duterte welcomed India’s role in his country’s defense capability upgrade program, against the backdrop of growing security cooperation, he said they have agreed “to continue working together to fight terrorism and violent extremism and other transboundary threats.”
Kovind said “both of our countries have been victims of terrorism,” and the two leaders “committed to work closely to defeat and eliminate terrorism in all its forms
and manifestations.”
He added: “As two vibrant democracies that believe in a rules-based international order, respect for international law and sovereign equality of nations, the Philippines and India are natural partners in the pursuit of their respective national development and security objectives.”
The two leaders also agreed to strengthen maritime security ties.
“As countries strategically located in the Pacific and Indian oceans, we affirmed our shared interest to protect our maritime commons and advance the rule of law in our maritime domains,” Duterte said.

BACKGROUND

Indian President Ram Nath Kovind said ‘both of our countries have been victims of terrorism,’ and the two leaders ‘committed to work closely to defeat and eliminate terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.’

He added that they also discussed “the most pressing concerns of our region and beyond, such as maritime security and economic integration.”
Following their meeting, they witnessed the signing of maritime, tourism, science, technology and cultural agreements.
Among them was a memorandum of understanding between the Philippine Coast Guard and the Indian Navy to enhance maritime security by sharing information on nonmilitary and nongovernment shipping vessels between the two countries.
“With the signing of bilateral agreements, we have likewise widened the path toward enhancement of our engagement in maritime security, science and technology, tourism and cultural cooperation,” Duterte said.
“We hope to look back on this day as a milestone in our relations, the day when we set out to turn promise into reality, and potential into concrete benefits that bring the greatest positive impact on the lives of our peoples.”