By Neeraj Gangal
Haj authorities in India, Pakistan face new challenges due to Cairo move.
The Arab health ministers’ decision in Cairo on Wednesday to restrict the elderly and children from performing Haj this year is proving to be a logistical nightmare for Haj authorities in India and Pakistan, according to a report.
The Arab News daily reported that of the 115,000 Indians whose Haj applications have been approved by government-supervised Central Haj Committee (HCI), nearly 20 percent are above the age of 65. It added that India’s Haj quota is in the excess of 1.5 million.
Most of the pilgrims come through the HCI while the rest come through private travel operators. However, the applicants through the Haj Committee plan their journey several months in advance.
Out of the nearly 400,000 Indians who applied for Haj through the HCI this year only 115,000 were selected as per the quota through a draw of lots.
Hafiz Naushad Ahmed Azmi, a member of the HCI told the Saudi newspaper, “Now if those above 65 are to be cancelled then we will have to go back to those on the rejected list and approve them. What else can we do? We would like to use our quota to the fullest. To compound the problem we are just three months away from Haj,” added Azmi.
Arab News noted that Pakistan faces similar challenges, as Haj is mostly undertaken during life’s later years in the Subcontinent.
Behrullah Hazarvi, Jeddah-based Pakistan Haj director told Arab News, “A large number of people in Pakistan wait for their end-of-service benefits before undertaking the pilgrimage. They ensure that they are free of all responsibilities before they head to Makkah. For many, these responsibilities include marrying off their sons and daughters. This has been the convention in the Subcontinent.”
“We have a quota of 80,000 and we have received 86,000 applications. Another 40,000 travel to Makkah through private tour operators. The draw of lots for government-administered quota will take place on Aug. 6. If the directions come beforehand then it will make our task easier. We can avoid considering the applications of those above 65.”