Hajj 2024: Pakistan 905 Tour Operators collapsed into 500 Unified Groups, to manage 500 pilgrims each

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• Pakistani private Hajj operators will form 180 unified groups to serve 500 pilgrims, instead of 2,000
• Religious affairs ministry says only 41,000 Hajj applications have been received for government scheme

Saudi Arabia has accepted Pakistan’s request to allocate equal quota for private Hajj tour operators for the upcoming pilgrimage and allow them to serve 500 pilgrims instead of 2,000, a senior official said on Tuesday.

The decision will enable 905 Pakistani Hajj companies to continue their operations by forming 180 unified groups.

Pakistan plans to send 179,210 pilgrims to the kingdom for Hajj next year, with 89,605 traveling under the government scheme while an equal number opting for private tour operators to fulfill the annual religious ritual.

Earlier, Saudi Arabia had asked Pakistan to decrease the number of Hajj group organizers from 905 to 46, each one managing 2,000 pilgrims to ensure smooth operations of the pilgrimage. The decision had caused concerns among owners of these companies.

“Responding to the Pakistani government’s request, Saudi Arabia has reduced the group size for private Hajj operators to 500 from 2,000,” Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi, the prime minister’s special envoy to the Middle East, told reporters in a media briefing in Islamabad along with representatives of the Hajj Organizers Association of Pakistan.

“This will allow all 905 Pakistani private Hajj companies to operate by forming 180 unified groups,” he continued, adding that none of these firms was going to shut down.
Ashrafi expressed gratitude to the Saudi authorities for easing restrictions on Pakistani private Hajj operators.

He said the religious affairs ministry, in collaboration with the private Hajj operators, had initiated an awareness campaign about the annual spiritual journey.

“Due to a reduction in the value of the dollar, the government scheme’s Hajj cost has been reduced by Rs100,000, and we anticipate similar reductions from the private sector,” he added.

The prime minister’s adviser said private Hajj operators had set up a complaint cell in accordance with the government’s instructions to address issues faced by pilgrims on private scheme.

Speaking to Arab News, religious affairs ministry spokesperson Muhammad Umer Butt said only 41,000 applications had so far been received under the government and the sponsorship schemes.

The sponsorship scheme allows overseas Pakistanis to apply for Hajj or sponsor someone in Pakistan by covering the journey’s expenses in US dollars.

SOURCE: ARAB NEWS