The Federal Government of Pakistan has decided to accept all Hajj applicants for 2023, as per the directions of Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif and a recommendation from the Ministry of Religious Affairs.
Drastically increased inflation and high Hajj prices have resulted in fewer applications for the Government’s Hajj program than seats available; According to Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, the Ministry of religious affairs received 72,869 applications under the regular Hajj scheme against this year’s quota of 44,190.
The significant increase in Hajj costs and its unaffordability for the masses has prompted the Government to accept applications of all intending pilgrims. “No balloting this year. All intended applicants are considered for performing Haj this year,” the finance ministry tweeted. Additionally, with the help of the State Bank of Pakistan, foreign exchange reserves will be provided for the Hajj pilgrims.
Many Pakistanis travel to Makkah – joining millions of their Muslim brothers from around the globe – to perform Hajj yearly. Ever since its inception, the Pakistani government has organized the Hajj under its official program for aid and ease of intending pilgrims.
COVID-19 caused major destruction to the global economy and put a complete stop to travel for the past three years. Only a few thousand Saudi citizens performed Hajj in 2020 and 2021. Last year, Saudi Arabia allowed foreign travelers access to the Holy Cities of Makkah and Madinah for the first-time post-Covid.
There were approximately one million pilgrims joining the 2022 Hajj and about 81,132 of them were Pakistani.
The number of pilgrims was less than half of pre-pandemic levels and only the pilgrims aged 18 to 65 – who were fully vaccinated or immunized against the virus or did not suffer from chronic diseases – were allowed to perform Hajj.
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