Saturday, March 04, 2023
KARACHI: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Saturday announced that its pre-Hajj operation would start on May 21 and continue till August 12 during which the national flag carrier will lift 38,000 pilgrims to Saudi Arabia.
“Pre Hajj operation will commence from 1st Zilqad till 4th Zilhajj, 1444 corresponding to Gregorian date 21st May till 22nd June 2023 (subject to moon sighting),” according to PIA Hajj circular.
The national flag carrier has decided to charge fares in US dollars for the second year in a row and fixed the fares for pilgrims going to Saudi Arabia under the private Hajj scheme from $870 to $1180 for the Southern region that includes Karachi, Quetta, Sukkur, Hyderabad.
This development comes after the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Friday decided to allocate a 50% special quota in the Government Hajj Scheme-2023 for the pilgrims who will pay in US dollars.
The decision was taken in view of an acute shortage of the greenback in the country whose forex reserves have been reduced to dangerous levels.
On the other hand, the airfares for the pilgrims from the northern region were in the range of $910 to $1,220. The northern sector includes Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar, Multan, and other cities.
The cost of a complete government Hajj scheme-based pilgrimage would be Rs1.25 million.
According to an estimate, PIA was expected to fly 38,000 pilgrims to the Holy Hijaz this year, Saudi Airlines 44,000, while the rest would take flights from two Pakistan-based private airlines to travel to Saudi Arabia.
PIA will use Boeing 777 and Airbus 320 for its Hajj flight operations to Jeddah and Madinah, according to sources.
Earlier, the ministry had decided to reserve a 25% Hajj quota for those who would deposit dues in US dollars but the authorities have been compelled to review its policy as the finance ministry has excused itself from providing $2 billion for the Hajj expenditures, the sources added.
Today, Minister for Religious Affairs Muti Abdul Shukoor called on Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and urged him to direct the ministry to release the amount.
Dar assured the minister of religious affairs of his all-out help in mobilising foreign exchange for the government's Hajj expenses.
"Our hands are tied because of the previous government's agreements with the IMF," sources quoted Dar as saying during the meeting.
According to sources, Dar also pledged the government would take all possible measures for the ease and convenience of the pilgrims.
The ministry would charge Rs1.1 million from each pilgrim under the government scheme, but the Hajj expenses might rise to Rs1.3 million in case of further depreciation of the rupee, said the well-placed sources.
The sources further added that the government of Saudi Arabia was increasing the tax rate on Hajj by 18% to 20%.