ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s interim Religious Affairs Minister Aneeq Ahmed has embarked on a week-long visit to Riyadh to discuss expansion of the Makkah Route Initiative with Saudi officials ahead of the Islamic Hajj pilgrimage next year.
Pakistan has already received its quota of 179,210 pilgrims for the Hajj, prompting the ministry to begin its preparations for those who plan to undertake the spiritual journey.
Ahmed was briefed on Tuesday about arrangements by the country’s Hajj mission and is due to meet representatives from companies providing facilities to pilgrims.
Mohammed Umer Butt, a spokesperson for the Religious Affairs Ministry, told Arab News that before returning to Islamabad on Sept. 24, Ahmed will hold separate meetings with Minister of Hajj and Umrah Tawfiq Al-Rabiah and Secretary-General of the Muslim World League Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa.
“The minister will discuss with his Saudi counterpart the expansion of the Makkah Route Initiative to Karachi and Lahore along with Islamabad for next year’s Hajj,” Butt said.
Saudi Arabia introduced the initiative in Pakistan and four other countries to provide customs and immigration services to pilgrims at the point of departure.
According to official statistics, more than 26,000 Pakistani pilgrims benefited from the facility at the Islamabad airport this year.
Butt said the Pakistani minister had already met the representatives of catering and accommodation companies for next year’s Hajj, adding that he instructed his team to finalize the agreements as soon as possible to secure lodging facilities for worshippers at prime locations.
“The Pakistani minister will arrive in Jeddah tomorrow where he will meet representatives of different Saudi companies and officials of the General Authority of Civil Aviation in relation to Hajj,” he added.