Hajj Application Deadline Extended due to Low Public Participation

Web DeskDecember 12, 20234986 min
In a bid to accommodate a tepid response, Pakistan's Ministry of Religious Affairs has extended the deadline for Hajj applications within the government scheme by an additional 10 days

In a bid to accommodate a tepid response, Pakistan’s Ministry of Religious Affairs has extended the deadline for Hajj applications within the government scheme by an additional 10 days, as confirmed by Aneeq Ahmed, the Minister of Religious Affairs. The initial application window, originally set from November 27 to December 12, has been prolonged due to a lower-than-expected turnout.

The Ministry of Religious Affairs had earlier announced the opening for Hajj 2024 applications, reserving a fixed quota of 89,605 individuals. The estimated cost for the pilgrimage is Rs. 1,075,000 per person.

Read more:Is coronavirus vaccine required for Hajj 2024?

However, the response has been notably subdued, with only 34,000 applications received so far, encompassing both government and sponsorship schemes. The ‘Sponsorship Scheme Hajj’ permits overseas Pakistanis to either apply for or sponsor someone for the pilgrimage by contributing in US dollars.

Minister Aneeq Ahmed highlighted the need for an extension, stating, “We are extending the application period for Hajj by 10 days, catering to both regular and sponsored applicants.” Despite a reduction of Rs. 100,000 in the Hajj package cost, the ministry expressed surprise at the underwhelming number of applications, citing the prevailing economic conditions in the country as a contributing factor.

The ministry aims to alleviate the financial burden on pilgrims and is engaged in negotiations with airline companies to reduce airfare. The minister pledged to refund any reduction, whether Rs. 50,000 or more, directly to the pilgrims.

Utilizing innovative methods, such as mobile phone ringtones and televised commercials, the religious ministry attempted to raise awareness about the Hajj scheme. Despite these efforts, Minister Ahmed acknowledged the low response, attributing it to the current economic conditions. However, he remains optimistic about the positive impact of the ministry’s dedicated initiatives.

This development coincides with Saudi Arabia’s decision to reinstate Pakistan’s pre-coronavirus Hajj quota of 179,210 pilgrims for the current year. Additionally, the upper age limit for performing the pilgrimage was lifted. In 2023, over 81,000 Pakistani pilgrims utilized the government scheme, while others opted for private tour operators.

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