Every Muslim, who is able in health and finances, is required to perform Hajj at least once in lifetime. It is a desire for every Muslim to visit the Holy Places, either for Umrah or Hajj. Pakistanis are no exception. Every year, hundreds of thousands apply for the annual Pilgrimage (Hajj) through Government sponsorship scheme and Private tour operators. As not everyone can bear the expenses of Private tour operators (this year ranging from PKR 250,000 to 500,000 per person), the majority of Pakistani Hajjis opt for Government sponsored packages.
However, as all things government go, Hajj operation in Pakistan is full of nepotism and corruption. Starting from the distribution of Hajj forms till the return flights from Saudi Arabia, Hajjis are extorted and looted by all and sundry. Hajj is taken as a season to earn from the poor souls who spend years to collect the expenses for this Holy trip.
This year is no exception.
We have seen, heard and read about incidents like the Hajj forms (received for free from Saudis) being sold to pilgrims, Hajj quotas manipulated to favor select few, and corruption in reservation of accommodation for Hajjis. This year, it was so severe that Saudi Prince had to write a letter to Chief Justice Supreme Court, asking him to intervene and investigate.
PIA played its usual role in adding the salt to Hajjis’ wounds, by increasing air fare at last moment. PIA also caused loss of millions of rupees to the exchequer by running VIP Hajj flights (dubbed as Rehmani Hajj Flight).
Recently, FIA arrested Rao Shakeel, Ex-Director Hajj Operations, on charges of corruption. However, some say that was done to protect him for a possible Judicial probe.
Yesterday, the Hajjis arrived at Mina and today they have reached Arafat. However, misery of Pakistani Hajjis has not ended. According to a news report, at least 20,000 Hajjis are staying without shelter in Mina.
Current Hajj Director says that “Hajis do normally face problems in Hijaz and it is not a big deal at all”.
Federal Minister of Religious Affairs, Hamid Saeed Kazmi has accepted the bad management by his ministry during Hajj saying that an inquiry would be done into the matter.
Those who have been on the holy pilgrimage can verify that the services provided by the governments of Iran, Turkey, Indonesia or Bangladesh are far better than what government of Pakistan does for its Hajjis. Even Hajjis from India, a Hindu-dominant secular country, are accommodated in comparatively better conditions.
So, if you are in Pakistan and planning for a Hajj trip, better save up till you are able to go through a decent private tour operator because the government is lurking out there, to suck you dry of your hard-earned money.