Saudi civil aviation authority to provide improved Hajj luggage services

Muslim pilgrims arrive at Jeddah airport in the Saudi capital on July 14,2018. (AFP)
Updated 17 August 2019

Saudi civil aviation authority to provide improved Hajj luggage services

  • The initiative will make it more convenient for pilgrims to travel and perform Hajj in the coming years
  • Saudi authorities also gave pre-departure immigration facility to pilgrims from a number of countries, including Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: After managing the world’s largest multicultural religious event involving more than 2.4 million Muslims from 130 countries, Saudi Arabia has taken a new initiative to offer improved Hajj luggage services to pilgrims.
According to a report published by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) on Saturday, the initiative will begin its pilot phase within the next two days and will automatically organize luggage logistics before worshippers arrive at the airport.
The president of the Kingdom’s General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA), Abdulhadi Al Mansouri, said the idea behind the plan was to improve pilgrims’ services by reducing waiting times at King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah and Prince Mohammed bin Abdul Aziz International Airport in Madinah.
He added that the initiative would serve about 30,000 pilgrims in the first phase at the airports in Jeddah and Madinah. After this phase was completed, the service would expand to all pilgrims in airports throughout the country.
The Kingdom already extended a pre-departure immigration facility to pilgrims belonging to different countries, including Pakistan, under its ‘Road to Makkah’ program. It also deployed hundreds of young individuals who spoke different languages to assist people from various parts of the world at its airports in Makkah and Madinah.
Saudi Arabia also launched a number of cellphone apps to help pilgrims find emergency service centers, holy sites, currency exchange rates, restaurants and accommodations. Apart from that, it made it easier for people performing Hajj to carry Zamzam water back to their countries.
The new luggage facility at this stage will help people from Indonesia, India and Malaysia, according to the SPA report. It is also likely to make things more convenient for pilgrims to traveling to the Kingdom and performing Hajj in the coming years.


Blasphemy accusation in Pakistan sparks ransacking of Hindu temple, school

Updated 16 September 2019

Blasphemy accusation in Pakistan sparks ransacking of Hindu temple, school

  • The violence erupted in the southern province of Sindh after a student accused the Hindu principal of blasphemy

KARACHI/ISLAMABAD: A crowd in Pakistan ransacked a school and Hindu temple after a Hindu principal was accused of blasphemy, police said on Monday, the latest case to raise concern about the fate of religious minorities in the predominantly Muslim country.
The violence erupted in the southern province of Sindh after a student accused the Hindu principal of blasphemy in comments about the Muslim Prophet Muhammad. The enraged crowd ransacked the school and damaged a nearby temple, a district police chief said.
The principal had been taken into protective custody and police were investigating both the alleged blasphemy and the rioters, he added.
“It seems the principal had not done anything intentionally,” the district police chief, Furrukh Ali, told Reuters.
Insulting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad carries a mandatory death penalty in Pakistan, which is about 95 percent Muslim and has among the harshest blasphemy laws in the world.
No executions for blasphemy have been carried out in Pakistan but enraged mobs sometimes kill people accused of it.
Rights groups say the blasphemy law is often exploited by religious hard-liners as well as ordinary Pakistanis to settle scores.
The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan condemned the weekend violence, footage of which was recorded in a video and circulated on social media. It called on authorities should take prompt action.
“The video ... is chilling: mob violence against a member of a religious minority is barbaric, unacceptable,” the commission said in a post on Twitter.
Hindus make up about 1.6 percent of Pakistan’s population of 208 million, the majority of whom are Sunni Muslims.
In January, the Supreme Court upheld the acquittal of a Christian women who spent years on death row after being convicted of blasphemy in a case that had drawn alarm from religious and human rights advocates.
In March, Pakistan’s government sacked a provincial minister for making offensive comments about Hindus as tension between Pakistan and Hindu-majority neighbor India ran high after a militant attack in the Indian-controlled portion of the contested Kashmir region.