Following the recent still unresolved case of heroin smuggling via Umrah pilgrims, there is another scam involving Travel agents. The travel industry is now turning into mafia. There is no check on their illegal activities and customer services. People had to rely on what they say and totally dependent on the agents or sub agents. The recent news unfolds stranded over 800 Pakistani Umrah pilgrims in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The money of their return tickets have been refunded in Pakistan leaving them in Lurch in Saudi Arabia.
Over 800 victimized Umrah Pilgrims went Saudi Arabia through separate airlines from various cities and are now unable to return back as some of them had no capacity to buy new tickets or their visas are expired. Icing on the cake is no support from the travel agents or consulate. Sub-agent in Jeddah also advised stranded people that they would be deported if they surrendered to the authorities. The easy way out is deport? The pilgrims were customers of an Umrah company officially registered with the Ministry of Haj and came here with the help of the company’s agent in Pakistan.
A spokesman of the company in Jeddah blamed the airline office in Pakistan and the company’s agent in Pakistan for issuing bogus tickets to their customers. Further adding;
“It was an organized fraud operation between the airline office and the company’s agent in Islamabad, They issued the pilgrims with forged return tickets to allow them to obtain an Umrah visa from the Saudi embassy in Islamabad “It was actually a one-way ticket which violates the Kingdom’s rules for Umrah and Haj visas,”.
Pakistan’s Religious Affairs Minister Hamid Saeed Kazmi said that three Pakistani travel agents were involved in the scam. Complaints have been registered with Saudi Ministry for Hajj and the investigations are underway in this connection. As the investigation continues, the pilgrims will be sent home soon, an official source, who required anonymity, said. Action will be taken against the airline office that issued them forged tickets.
Strict Visa policy and rules and regulations for travel agents should be imposed to counter such frauds in future. A religious activity may not be harmed by such awful agent mafia. Government should try to figure out some Umrah Packages twice a year and regulate the whole procedure through minister of religious affairs.