| GEO Pakistan|
| Hajj applications date extended till July 2|
| Updated at: 2336 PST, Friday, June 25, 2010|
ISLAMABAD: The last date to submit Hajj applications under the government scheme has been extended till July 2 after the expiry of earlier given deadline of June 25.
"Last date of submitting Hajj applications has been extended till July 2 due to low turn out of applicants mainly caused by condition of Machine Readable Passports (MRPs) imposed by the Saudi authorities for Hajj this year," said Minister for Religious Affairs Syed Hamid Saeed Kazmi, while addressing a news conference here.
He said the balloting to select intending pilgrims would also be held on the same date of July 2 soon after closure of receiving the Hajj applications, if the number of applicants exceeds the allocation of 80,000.
After starting the process on June 10, the ministry received around 12,000 applications by June 25 in 15 days.
The minister cited the condition of MRPs main reason behind this low turn out of applicants as people in far-flung areas of the country were unable to get their passports in a short span of time.
"So, the ministry has issued directives to the designated bank branches receiving the Hajj applications for accepting the applications with photocopies of the receipts from those aspirants who have applied for MRPs," he added.
Kazmi claimed that this year the ministry would provide unprecedented facilities to Hujjaj in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia performing the religious obligation under the government scheme.
To a question, he said the ministry respects the recommendations of the Senate Standing Committee on Religious Affairs with regard to reduction in Hajj package but "we have announced a well-calculated package and the reduction in it is only possible if the government provides subsidy."
"Pakistan's Hajj package as compared to India and Bangladesh is less, while we are providing better facilities too. In old Mina where India would accommodate 22 pilgrims in a camp, Pakistan would allocate the same camp to 16 Hujjaj," the minister added.
He said the federal cabinet had approved the Hajj policy for the year 2010 after holding a thorough debate and added "only the cabinet has the authority to revise the package."
Kazmi informed the media that the ministry till now has finalized the arrangements to accommodate 40,000 pilgrims in Saudi Arabia within 200 metres distance from the Haram Sharif.
He said the government had sent Joint Secretary (Hajj) Aftab-ul-Islam Raja to ensure transparent and flawless accommodation arrangements in consultation with the Director General Hajj in Jeddah.
The ministry would send more than 160,000 pilgrims to Saudi Arabia for Hajj this year under the government and private scheme.
The one-month pre Hajj flight operations would commence from October 10 to airlift more than 160,000 intending pilgrims to Saudi Arabia. Pakistan International Airlines and Saudi Airlines would operate both the pre and post Hajj flight operations.