ISLAMABAD: Saudi Minister for Hajj and Umrah, Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, will arrive in Islamabad today, on Sunday, on a four-day visit to discuss matters concerning the Hajj pilgrimage and the promotion of religious tourism between the two countries, the Pakistani religious affairs ministry said.
The Kingdom’s envoy to Pakistan Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki, also met with Pakistan’s caretaker religious affairs minister, Aneeq Ahmed, on Saturday ahead of the Saudi Hajj minister’s visit along with a delegation.
“The visit of the Saudi Minister for Hajj and Umrah and his delegation is of great importance and [he] is given the status of a State Guest,” Muhammad Umer Butt, a spokesperson for the Pakistani religious affairs ministry, told Arab News.
“During the visit, multiple issues related to facilities to Hajj and Umrah pilgrims and expansion of Route to Makkah project to other Pakistani cities will be discussed.”
The visiting Saudi minister would be leading a delegation comprising heads of the Saudi civil aviation, airlines and other departments, which is of great importance in terms of enhancing cooperation for religious tourism, civil aviation and airlines, he said.
In 2019, Saudi Arabia introduced the Makkah Route initiative in Pakistan and four other countries, streamlining Hajj visas, customs and health requirements at their departure airports and thus saving substantial time upon arrival in the Kingdom. This year, over 26,000 Pakistani pilgrims benefited from the project from Islamabad airport.
On Saturday, Pakistani religious affairs ministry stated that a memorandum of understanding (MoU) will also be signed during the visit to enhance future Hajj arrangements .
“We will also discuss increase in Hajj quota according to the population of Pakistan under the new census and if they [Saudi delegation] agree, then our Hajj quota will be the highest in the world on the basis of the new census,” Butt said.
“Along with delegation-level talks with religious affairs minister, the visiting Saudi minister will also meet with the Pakistan’s president, the prime minister and the chief of army staff,” he added.
During the four-day visit, the delegation plans to visit Karachi and meet with dignitaries and the business community in the Pakistani commercial hub.
“The Saudi delegation will also meet with people involved in Hajj, Umrah and religious tourism,” Butt said, adding that Pakistan had the highest rate of Umrah for many years and the country stood as number two in terms of the number of Hajj pilgrims.
Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are close allies and enjoy brotherly relations as the Kingdom is home to over 2.5 million Pakistani expatriates and plays a pivotal role in providing remittances and oil supplies to the South Asian country.
In June this year, Saudi Arabia extended assistance to Pakistan by depositing $3 billion in its central bank, helping Islamabad avert a sovereign default and secure an International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout deal.