Saudi cabinet reviews, stresses commitment to Hajj services

A team of Saudi officials check travel documents for Hajj pilgrims at Islamabad International Airport. The Saudi team installed a pre-immigration system at the airport to facilitate Pakistani travellers flying to Makkah and Madinah this year, under the Road to Makkah Project. July 4, 2019. (Photo Courtesy – Saudi Embassy)
Updated 24 July 2019

Saudi cabinet reviews, stresses commitment to Hajj services

  • Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ Guests Program has benefited over 52,000 pilgrims
  • ‘Road to Makkah’ project an extension of services for Pakistani Hajj pilgrims

ISLAMABAD: The Saudi cabinet on Tuesday reviewed topics related to the services provided to Hajj pilgrims, and to the service of the Two Holy Mosques, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
Chaired by King Salman, the cabinet discussed his directive to host thousands of pilgrims from all over the world each year as part of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ Guests Program for Hajj and Umrah.
The program has benefited more than 52,000 pilgrims since its inception in 1996.
Media Minister Turki Al-Shabanah said the opening of water projects in Makkah and the holy sites reflects the Saudi leadership’s care and attention, SPA reported.
The opening of the water projects, which cost a total of more than SR1.3 billion ($346.6 million), coincides with this year’s pilgrimage season, to the benefit of pilgrims from around the world.
As one of Saudi Arabia’s most long-standing allies, Pakistan has particularly benefitted from Saudi Arabia’s commitment to Hajj services.
As an extension of services provided to Pakistani Hajj pilgrims this year, the Road to Makkah project was initiated in the country and aims to facilitate the 200,000 people expected to perform the obligatory religious ritual. It was during Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s February visit to Islamabad, that Prime Minister Imran Khan had requested him to include Pakistan in the project.
For this purpose, before the commencement of Hajj flights from Pakistan earlier this month, a team of Saudi officials arrived in the country to set up a pre-departure immigration system at Islamabad International Airport which significantly cuts down waiting times for pilgrims once they land in Saudi Arabia. The program is expected to be extended to other major airports in Pakistan in the years to come. 
This year alone, nearly 30,000 Pakistani pilgrims are expected to benefit from the facility. 
In addition to this, services to Pakistani pilgrims include a state-of-the-art Pakistan Hajj medical mission with 180 doctors, two hospitals and 18 ambulances. 

Pakistan ‘wants to play its role’ for peace in Middle East – FO

Updated 12 January 2020

Pakistan ‘wants to play its role’ for peace in Middle East – FO

  • Work on foreign minister’s visit to Saudi Arabia, Iran and the United States being done
  • Pakistan’s strong relations with regional countries has made it an important player

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterated on Thursday that the country was going to play its role in restoring peace in the Middle East by working with other international stakeholders in the region.

“Pakistan welcomes de-escalation and wants to play its role in ensuring peace and stability in the region. We have seen that indication in United States President [Donald] Trump’s speech and are evaluating its contours,” the country’s foreign office spokesperson, Aisha Farooqui, said in her weekly media briefing in Islamabad on Thursday.

She said that Pakistan’s geographical position, along with its strong relations with regional countries and the United States, had made it a significant player in the Middle East.

“Pakistan has maintained that war is not the solution to any issue and made it clear that it will not become part of any regional conflict,” she said.

The spokesperson noted that Islamabad had enhanced its efforts to defuse tensions in the region and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had contacted his counterparts in Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and many other important states in this connection.

“All the international players, including Saudi Arabia, have said that the region cannot afford another war and asked for restraint from both parties [the US and Iran]. It’s a collective objective of all countries to ensure peace and stability in the Middle East,” she said.

Commenting on the foreign minister’s upcoming visit to Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the US, she said that “work on these tours has already started and they will take place as soon as dates are finalized with the respective countries.”

“We are very mindful for our brotherly and friendly relations with Saudi Arabia, Iran, and other regional countries. Pakistan and the US also enjoy longstanding relations and have contacts with each other through multiple forums including political and military leadership,” Farooqui said, adding that the foreign office had established a task force to continuously monitor the situation in the Middle East and inform the government about it along with its suggestions on a daily basis.

The spokesperson expressed hope that recent developments in the Middle East would not affect the ongoing Afghan peace process.

“Pakistan hopes that progress made on Afghan peace process will not come to a halt and the world community will not lose its focus as a result of the ongoing tensions in the Middle East,” she said.

Asked about the safety of Pakistani nationals in Iraq, she said the country’s embassy in Baghdad was on the alert to deal with any emergency situation.

“We are concerned about the safety of Pakistani citizens in Iraq and have issued an advisory in this regard. We have also instructed our mission in Baghdad to remain vigilant to deal with any emergency,” Farooqui said.