Hajj 2024: Pakistanis intending pilgrims to get “free SIM cards with internet”

A man takes a picture of Muslim worshippers performing prayers around the Kaaba, Islam's holiest shrine, at the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca on August 15, 2018, prior to the start of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the holy city. - The hajj, expected to draw more than two million pilgrims to Mecca this year, represents a key rite of passage for Muslims and a massive logistical challenge for Saudi authorities, with colossal crowds cramming into relatively small holy sites. (Photo by BANDAR ALDANDANI / AFP)

Acting Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Aneeq Ahmed said on Tuesday that the government will provide free mobile SIM cards with roaming internet packages to Pakistanis who perform Hajj in 2024.

Speaking to a private news channel, the caretaker minister said that female pilgrims would also be given abayas with a Pakistani flag on the back and all would be given 13kg suitcases.

The minister termed the reduction in Haj costs by around Rs 100,000 as a “historic step” by the interim government and pointed out that another Rs 50,000 would be cut and the amount would be refunded to people in their accounts.

He said to assist pilgrims, a new mobile application has been developed to provide navigation assistance and enable constant communication between pilgrims and relevant officials.

The application will initially be available in English and Urdu but will later include various regional languages, he said, adding that the app will also provide digital training programs for every pilgrim.

The minister also unveiled a project in which the Haj Ministry, in collaboration with the Education Ministry, has planned to convert urban mosques into schools to educate out-of-school children, in which the imams of the mosques would play a leading role.

The minister said mosques in all urban areas would play their role as community centers, adding that imams would also solve community problems after prayers.

He said that the Hajj Ministry is involving all four provinces and improving connectivity of mosques.

Describing another project, the minister said that his ministry, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, has another project in the works where medical clinics will also be part of mosques.