Pakistanis rejoicing cancellation of repeat Umrah fees, minister says

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Muslim pilgrims feeding seeds to pigeons outside Masjid Al Haram in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, on Nov. 17, 2009. (AFP)
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Pakistanis welcomed the Saudi decision to cancel the charges for any Pakistani seeking to perform Umrah more than once a year. (File/AFP)
Updated 12 September 2019

Pakistanis rejoicing cancellation of repeat Umrah fees, minister says

  • Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah formally informs Pakistan of the decision
  • Number of Pakistani Umrah pilgrims can touch 2 million annual mark, religious affairs minister says

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Minister of Religious Affairs, Noor ul Haq Qadri, on Thursday welcomed the Saudi decision to cancel the charges for any Pakistani seeking to perform Umrah more than once a year.
Qadri said that the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has formally conveyed the decision to Pakistan, which is being widely rejoiced among the Pakistani nationals.
More than 1.6 million Pakistanis performed Umrah this year alone, said Qadri, adding the number could touch a two million annual mark with the cancelation of repeat Umrah fee of SAR 2000 per person.
The Pakistani minister thanked King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the royal decree to restructure visit, transit and Hajj policies.
“Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan had requested Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to look into the matter [following which the] Minister of Religious Affairs, Noor ul Haq Qadri, had also discussed the matter with his Saudi counterpart during Hajj this year,” according to a statement issued by Pakistan’s religious affairs ministry.
Qadri also thanked Saudi minister for Hajj and Umrah, Dr. Mohammad Salih Bentin for his efforts in this regard.
Dr. Bentin said last week that the initiative reflects the Kingdom’s readiness to receive an increasing number of pilgrims which is evident from the volume of investment in huge infrastructure projects and development of services in the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah.
The decree supports efforts to achieve one of the most important objectives of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reform plan, which hopes to facilitate 30 million Umrah pilgrims by that year.


Gunmen kill journalist in northwestern Pakistan

Updated 4 min 39 sec ago

Gunmen kill journalist in northwestern Pakistan

  • Javedullah Khan was traveling with a police guard when two gunmen opened fire on his vehicle
  • Police says it was a targeted attack

PESHAWAR: A Pakistan journalist whose relatives were members of an anti-Taliban group has been gunned down, police confirmed Wednesday, the latest attack targeting media in the restive northwest of the country.
Javedullah Khan, 36, was shot dead late Tuesday in Matta, a former militant stronghold some 40-kilometers (24 miles) northwest of Pakistan’s picturesque Swat valley.
He worked as a bureau chief for the Urdu language newspaper Ausaf.
“Javed was traveling with a police guard when two gunmen opened fire on his vehicle. He died on the spot,” senior police official Muhammad Ijaz Khan told AFP.
Ali Muhammad a local police official, also confirmed the incident.
“It was a targeted attack,” Muhammad added.
“Many of his relatives, including a brother, uncles, and cousins were killed due to their involvement in anti-Taliban peace committees.”
For years, Pakistan has encouraged tribal vigilante forces, known locally as peace committees, to defend their villages against militants.
Most have been disbanded following a dramatic improvement in security across the country.
While militant networks have been severely disrupted in recent years, insurgents still retain the ability to launch attacks.
Amnesty International said Khan was an “exceptionally brave journalist” and called for an independent investigation into his killing.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but militants have long targeted pro-government tribal elders in the past.
Pakistan routinely ranks among the world’s most dangerous countries for media workers, and reporters have frequently been detained, beaten and even killed for being critical of the powerful military or Islamist militants.