Rifqatullah Razarwal

The Economic Coordination Committee of the Cabinet has approved the Hajj Policy for the year 2023. According to the notification issued, Rs 1,175000 will be the tentative Hajj package this year.

Compared to last year, Hajj expenses have increased by more than 68% or Rs 47,5000, a raise which economists attribute to the rise in dollar prices.

This week, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar chaired the ECC meeting, and Religious Affairs Minister Maulana Abdul Shakoor wherein submitted a summary of the Hajj policy 2023.

As per the announcement, 179,210 people from Pakistan will perform Hajj this year, for which the ECC has approved the payment of over 90 million dollars.

This year, the Hajj quota allocated for Pakistan shall be distributed at a ratio of 50:50 between the government and private Hajj schemes.

Besides, out of both schemes, a quota of 50% shall be reserved for the sponsorship scheme.

Similarly, the tentative Hajj package for the northern region is Rs 1,175000 and for the southern region is 1,165000 rupees.

Last year, 81,210 Pakistanis performed Hajj, which cost pilgrims from the northern region 80, 0287 rupees and those from the southern region 80, 0237 rupees.

Haji Wahdat Khan, President of Charsadda District Travel Agent Association, told TNN that not only has the price of the dollar increased this year, but due to the shortage of forex reserves in the country, the expenses have increased from 0.9 to 1.2 million rupees.

According to Haji Wahdat this does not include the sacrifice and other expenses of Hajj there, “if included, these expenses will exceed 1.3 million rupees.”

He said that this year the government has also allocated a 50 percent Hajj quota for overseas Pakistanis, if any Pakistani living abroad deposits Hajj dues in foreign currency under the government scheme, they will be exempted from the lottery. Balloting will be done among the entrants in Pakistani rupees.

Haji Wahdat said that along with this, the costs of Umrah have also increased, today the cost of Umrah is 350000 to 400000 rupees, but despite this, the number of pilgrims for Hajj and Umrah is increasing every year.

He said that one of the reasons for the increase in Umrah costs is that the Saudi government is expanding the area of the Haram in Madinah, which has affected almost all the hotels, “Now due to the lack of hotels there, the residential costs have also increased.”

He suggested that the government should take concrete steps to control the value of the dollar, the State Bank should resolve the issue of uncleared remittances, and also negotiate with the Saudi government on hotel expenses.

Hajj operations from Pakistan this year will start on May 21 and the first Hajj flight carrying pilgrims will depart on the same day.

According to data released by the Economic Coordination Committee, the number of candidates for Hajj depositing dues in US dollars may exceed 44,800. The government says it has set aside 25 percent of the official Hajj quota for dollar inflows to provide some relief to the nation’s forex reserves.