2017: Another mismanaged Hajj by the Saudis

The federal government on Monday claimed that Saudi Arabia had apologised over ‘their mismanagement’ at Mina and assured that next year all-out efforts will be made to provide best possible facilities to pilgrims from Pakistan.

A large number of people who performed Hajj under the government scheme had flooded the official Facebook page and Whatsapp group of the ministry with complaints regarding mismanagement in Saudi Arabia.

They complained that due to the unavailability of transport, and tents at Mina, they had to suffer a lot. A group of angry pilgrims also had a heated exchange with the federal minister for religious affairs over his department’s failure to provide adequate facilities.

Now the ministry has shifted all the blame to the Saudi government in a bid to put an end to the criticism.

Spokesperson for the Ministry of Religious Affairs Imran Siddiqui told The Express Tribune that from Mina onwards, it was the responsibility of the Saudi government to provide food, accommodation and transport to the pilgrims, and Pakistani officials had no role to play.

He said that the arrangement for the five days at Masha’ir was to be carried out by Moassassah South Asia after an agreement had been inked with them in accordance with Saudi rules. He added that the ministry had also made the payment in advance for the necessary arrangements.

“The religious affairs ministry has also written a letter to the chairman of Moassassah South Asia and formally lodged a complaint with the Saudi government regarding the problems faced by the pilgrims during Masha’ir,” he said.

The ministry – in the letter written to the Saudi government which is available with The Express Tribune – has also complained to the Saudi authorities for ‘their substandard facilities’.

The ministry’s spokesman also claimed that the Saudi government had refunded money to the Pakistan government for those pilgrims who did not get transportation services and had to walk 20 to 25 kilometres.

“The religious affairs ministry has been refunded 2.98 million Saudi riyals for 1,1070 pilgrims, which means 250 Saudi riyals per pilgrim,” he said.

He said that some 3,000 Pakistani pilgrims who had been invited by the Saudi king for performing Hajj also had a horrible experience.

“All of them belonged to the elite class, but they had to sleep on foot paths there, had to starve because the Saudi government only provided them visas and did not arrange accommodation, food or transport facility for them,” said the spokesman.

By Sehrish Wasif

tribune.com.pk

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