Saudi Arabia has told Pakistan not to prepare a Hajj agreement as the coronavirus continues to spread across the world. Saudi Arabia Hajj Minister Dr Saleh bin Taher Benten told the Pakistani government in a letter written on Thursday that there should be no agreement till the coronavirus situation is clear. He wrote that the Saudi government is taking measures to remain careful.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs has suggested that Hajj costs may increase this year by over one hundred thousand rupees because of hike in the US dollar’s exchange rate and rising airfares. After this hike the total cost of government Hajj package would become around Rs550,000. A total of 179,000 people are going to perform Hajj this year.
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have signed an agreement for Hajj 2020, which will allow as many as 200,000 Pakistanis to perform the religious duty next year. The new agreement has seen an increase in Pakistan’s quota from the previous 184,210 to 200,000. The Saudi government has agreed to increase facilities for Pakistani pilgrims, including the expansion of Road to Makkah project to other Pakistani cities, provision of quality food, transport, and residential facilities under this agreement.
The Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) government is going to make a second refund to the pilgrims who performed Hajj under the recent government scheme. As per details, the government has decided to distribute Rs. 800 million, saved from hajj expenses, among 53,000 Hajj pilgrims. The refund is being made from the savings on train fares and accommodation.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is mulling possibility of allowing women to perform Hajj without a male guardian. According to Arab News, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah is conducting researches to issue visit visas for both tourism and Umrah purposes, and this process is expected to pave the way for allowing women to come without a mahram (male guardian).
The Saudi government has introduced a rule which obligates pilgrims to pay a tax of SAR 2000 for performing Umrah again. Under the new rule, an individual will only be able to avail the tax-free visa facility two years after their previous Umrah. The policy has been introduced to facilitate pilgrims heading to Saudi Arabia for the first time.