Pilgrims complain of lack of facilities ahead of Hajj

A video clips shows Pakistanis have poor accommodations and face water shortage at camps in holy city of Makkah

Picture source - AFP (for visual reference only)

A video clip posted by a pilgrim on a social media site from Makkah shows that Pakistanis are facing immense problems in the holy city days before the start of the annual congregation of Hajj.

Severe shortages of water and poor accommodation arrangements were highlighted in the three-minute and thirty-second-long clip with a passionate appeal to the government authorities to take notice of the problems.

A total of 81,132 pilgrims from Pakistan, the second-highest country in terms of number of pilgrims after Indonesia, are performing this year’s Hajj in July.

Carrying 329 pilgrims, the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) resumed its first flight on June 6 from Islamabad to Madina, and operations will continue till July 3.

PIA Spokesman Abdullah Hafeez Khan said one-month post-Hajj flight operation will commence on July 14 and continue till August 13. Under the government Hajj-2022 package, the total cost for performing the religious duty was Rs700,000.

However, the pilgrims complained they were charged much more as compared to the arrangements.

“I’m showing you the scene from buildings numbers 901, 902, 904 from markaz (centre) number 94. Here we are facing worst problems and no one from the [Pakistani] government authorities has visited us so far to listen to our complaints,” said the pilgrim, requesting people to pass the message (video clip) to the concerned authorities.

The video shows the empty water coolers and Hajis holding bottled water performing ablution in front of their camps where they have been stuffed in a male-female joint accommodation to stay and sleep.

The pilgrim said the air-conditioners at the camps were not working, making their days and nights sleepless in the scorching heat of Saudi Arabia.

Muhammad Sarfraz, a resident of Gulshan-e-Abbas Multan Road, described a similar situation, quoting his relative who was in Makkah for performing Hajj. He told the Minute Mirror that a single room which could at maximum accommodate three people, was allocated to six people in the city. He said the Pakistani pilgrims were provided minimum facilities as compared to Indians, Malaysians and Indonesians in nearby camps.

The complaints about lack of facilities for pilgrims had long been surfacing in Pakistan. The Hajj corruption scandal rocked the national political scene and led to the departure of both former religious affairs minister Hamid Saeed Kazmi and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Azam Swati from the federal cabinet between 2009 and 2012 on similar issues.

On March 3, 2016, a special court had sentenced Hamid to 16 years in prison. His two ministry lieutenants, former Director General (DG) Hajj Rao Shakeel and former joint secretary of the Religious Affairs Ministry Raja Aftabul Islam, were also jailed for massive irregularities during Hajj operations. However, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) in March 2017, acquitted former religious affairs minister Hamid Saeed Kazmi, Rao Shakeel and Raja Aftabul Islam, suspending an earlier decision of a special trial court.

The Lahore office of the religious ministry said Islamabad could respond to the complaints lodged in the video. An official of the ministry, who requested anonymity, said the government was ensuring maximum facilities to pilgrims.

The officials of the religious ministry in Islamabad had not responded to the calls on their landline number.

Iftikhar Alam is a correspondent writing on religion, politics, agriculture, and energy. He takes people on a rich journey through the culture of Punjab. He tweets @imiftikharalam and can be reached at iftikharalam@live.com.

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