Registration of pilgrims under private Hajj scheme in progress with affordable packages: Ashrafi

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LAHORE, Apr 20 : Chairman Pakistan Ulema Council, Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi announced that the registration of pilgrims under the private Hajj scheme was in progress, with 24,000 pilgrims slated to participate in the Road to Makkah project this year.

He made these remarks during a press conference held at the Lahore Press Club, where he was joined by representatives from Hajj Organisers Association of Pakistan (HOAP), including Saeed Ahmed Malik, Chaudhry Ehsanullah, Malik Abdul Khaliq, Chaudhry Muhammad Adil, Khalid Mahmood Bhatti, Pir Shafaat Ahmed Boudla, and Zeeshan Qamar. Ashrafi, who is also the patron-in-chief of HOAP, noted that this year, certain private tour operators were offering Hajj packages at a more affordable rate compared to pilgrims participating in the government Hajj scheme. He emphasised that due to enhanced self-accountability measures, private pilgrims would not encounter issues as they have in the past. “It is imperative to provide written documentation to pilgrims detailing all the facilities to be provided during the sacred journey,” he added. Furthermore, Ashrafi mentioned that the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah was dispatching high-level officials to train Pakistani pilgrims. With the concerted efforts of Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif and Chief of Army Staff General Syed Asim Munir, he said high-level Saudi delegations had visited Pakistan. He remarked that Pakistan’s shift towards trade rather than aid was a significant development, with Saudi Arabia and other Islamic nations poised to play pivotal roles in Pakistan’s future economic and financial advancement. He commended the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony for implementing corruption-free measures, expressing praise for the current government and the minister for their efforts. In response to a question, Ashrafi affirmed that the Saudi government always refrained from interfering in Pakistan’s internal affairs. During challenging periods, he said the Saudi government had extended assistance to Pakistan. Ashrafi further mentioned that following the visits of the army chief and the prime minister, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman had dispatched high-level Saudi delegations to Pakistan. He underscored the commitment of the Saudi government to invest in Pakistan, enhancing its economic and financial stability. In a gesture of deep appreciation, he extended his heartfelt thanks to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz, Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr Tawfiq Fawzan Al-Rabiah, and Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki for their unwavering support in providing facilities to pilgrims and other tourists. Responding to another query, he emphasized that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia shared identical stances regarding Israel. “Both countries firmly assert that Israel’s occupation of Palestine is unjust”, he maintained.