The Saudi government has agreed to waive 2,000 riyals tax imposed on Pakistanis performing Umrah every year on the request of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
According to a media report, the PM, during his visit to the Kingdom, had requested Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud to abolish the fee.
The development was shared by the Religious Ministry with the Senate Committee which met here Tuesday to discuss the problems faced by Pakistanis while performing Hajj and Umrah as reported by The News.
Presiding the meeting, Senator Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri said people had been complaining about the imposition of 2,000 riyals tax on pilgrims performing more than one Umrah within two years.
Secretary of Religious Affairs Muhammad Mushtaq said that the rationale behind the Saudi move was to discourage repeated Umrah by a few people only and the tax had not been levied on Pakistanis only but it had recently been imposed on anyone coming from any country of the world.
“However this new tax of 2,000 riyals on people performing more than one Umrah within two years has been abolished for the people of Egypt and Turkey after requests were made by governments of these countries to the Saudi government,” Mr Mushtaq said.
The prime minister, he said, took up the matter with Saudi authorities and they agreed to waive it off and it was just a matter of time when they notify the policy.
Some senators, however, criticised the prime minister’s move saying it would benefit only a few rich people who wanted to perform Umrah every year.
The committee was informed about Hajj operations 2018 and was told that the ministry of religious affairs would start preparations for Hajj operations 2019 in January.
Senator Sajid Mir demanded that the draft of Hajj Policy 2019 should be presented to the committee first, but Minister for Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadri said that the committee could only forward its suggestions to the government as amendments to the Hajj Policy of 2018.
Several senators criticised arrangements made by the government for Hajj pilgrims last year.
The chairman of the committee, Senator Haideri, told the meeting that he had performed Hajj almost every year on a special quota granted by the Saudi ambassador.
“I have seen more mismanagement only on Pakistan’s side than any other country,” he said.
He also asked the religious ministry to explain the reason why only army men were required for medical care of Hajj pilgrims during Hajj.
He suggested the religious ministry to seek applications for the medical mission from provinces and the federal government also.