ISLAMABAD: The number of applications received for Haj 2024 under the government scheme is far less when compared to Haj 2023, which has worried officials of the Ministry of Religious Affairs.
The sources said that in order to increase the number of applications, the ministry is considering changing the Haj-Badal rules and removing the ban on performing Haj twice within five years, according to the minister. Cabinet approval will be sought to lift this ban.
The process of receiving Haj applications started on November 27. The last date for applications is December 12, with six days remaining. A proposal to extend the deadline is also under consideration.
The number of Haj applications received till eleven days on Wednesday is 16,300 out of which 1,036 have come under sponsorship scheme. If compared with Haj 2023, this number is quite less.
The process of receiving applications for Haj 2023 started on March 16. In just eight days, 26,000 applications were submitted till March 23. A total of 79,922 applications were submitted under the government scheme. Out of these, 72,860 applications were submitted under regular scheme and 7,062 under the sponsorship scheme.
The total Haj quota was 89,605 and quota of 10,000 was surrendered. Private scheme quota of 10,000 was also surrendered. This year too, the Haj quota is to be surrendered. Before this, there were 81,132 applications for Haj 2022, but that year the Haj quota was less due to corona.
Officials of the Ministry associated with Haj operations are of the opinion that the main reason for the low applications for Haj is decrease in the financial capacity of people due to inflation. Another reason is that only a token amount was taken with the Haj applications last year instead of the total amount. The full amount was collected from the successful pilgrims. This year the full amount has been sought.
There are six months left in Haj, so people think that money is being taken much earlier. According to experts, even if applications are taken with token money after the deadline, more people will come.
According to the authorities, more requests will be received by changing the Haj-Badal and lifting the ban on Haj twice a year for five years. On the other hand, the government is facing foreign exchange crunch. The Saudi government has to be informed about the Haj flight schedule by January 4.