ISLAMABAD: More than 2,000 Pakistani volunteers have been assisting pilgrims arriving in Saudi Arabia for this year’s Hajj, senior officials told Arab News, ahead of the annual pilgrimage set to commence this week.
One of Islam’s five main pillars of faith, the Hajj was restricted over pandemic fears to just 1,000 people living in the Kingdom in 2020 and 60,000 domestic participants last year, compared with the pre-pandemic levels when up to 2.5 million pilgrims could attend.
This year, with the Hajj pilgrimage set to begin on July 6 and Saudi Arabia having lifted its COVID-19 curbs, the Kingdom will welcome 1 million domestic and foreign pilgrims — and 81,132 of them will come from Pakistan.
Over 2,000 Pakistani volunteers have been assisting Hajj pilgrims from the South Asian country, more than half of whom are Pakistani expats living in Saudi Arabia.
Abrar Ahmed Mirza, Pakistan’s director general of Hajj in Jeddah, told Arab News that “410 Pakistanis who are working in the Kingdom have joined our Hajj mission as local volunteers, while 810 have come from Pakistan.”
The other volunteers had signed up through the Saudi-based Pakistani Hajj Volunteers Group (PHVG), and had received training before they began offering help and advice to the worshippers.
“This year around 750 volunteers will work,” Muhammad Ismail, a central coordinator with the PHVG, told Arab News.
“As per our policy, all volunteers have gone through two mandatory training sessions and are subsequently required to pass an online exam.”
The volunteers are tasked with helping pilgrims get food, access transport, and provide emergency medical aid when required.
Hidayat Ullah, a Pakistani expatriate living in Madinah, said he took leave from his office to join the volunteer mission.
“This is the fourth time I am serving as a volunteer. I am doing this just to serve our country’s pilgrims,” he told Arab News.
Jawad Shafique, another Pakistani volunteer based in Makkah, told Arab News that he wants to help ensure that pilgrims have a smooth stay in Saudi Arabia during their trip.
“We ensure the provision of all basic facilities to pilgrims,” Shafique said.