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Haj subsidy withdrawal: Govt, opposition at daggers drawn in Senate, NA

. It claims to be making efforts to model Pakistan after the State of Madina but in turn withdrawal of Haj subsidy has made it difficult for the pilgrims to pay pilgrimage,” he said.

By Asim Yasin
February 02, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The government and the opposition came face to face in the National Assembly and the Senate on Friday on the withdrawal of Haj subsidy, with the latter putting the former in a tight corner.

Speaking in the National Assembly, the President Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Opposition Leader Shahbaz Sharif said the opposition will raise the issue of the increase in the Haj expenditure in the upcoming session of the National Assembly and seek a reply from the government. “The government has made it difficult for the Hujjaj from Pakistan to make a pilgrimage to Makkah and Madina. It claims to be making efforts to model Pakistan after the State of Madina but in turn withdrawal of Haj subsidy has made it difficult for the pilgrims to pay pilgrimage,” he said. “The government has gifted the people of Pakistan an expensive Haj. It seems the government does not take it as a religious duty but as a source of income. It’s the first cabinet which has not provided subsidy on Haj,” he added.

Shahbaz said he did not understand the government’s management of the Haj affairs, as no relief has been passed on to the people. “Our government prevented the Haj expenditures from increasing, and made best arrangements to facilitate the pilgrims. The government has made it difficult for the common person to even think of performing Haj,” he lamented.

Agencies add: Meanwhile, speaking in the Senate on increase in the Haj expenses this year, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan said 70 percent of expenditure is incurred in Saudi Arabia and the government has no control over it.

The Jamaat-e-Islami’s Senator Mushtaq Ahmed Khan moved a calling attention notice over the government’s decision not to grant subsidy to pilgrims in the Hajj Policy 2019. “The government had claimed that a ‘State of Medina’ will be made but its first Haj policy is disappointing. The highest number of pilgrims who go for Haj and Umrah are from Pakistan,” the JI senator said. “Haj has become a part of the tsunami of inflation,” he added. “Those who claimed to make a State of Medina are stopping people from going to Makkah and Medina,” Senator Mushtaq lamented.

Responding to the calling attention notice, the minister for parliamentary affairs said, “Finance Minister Asad Umar wanted to give relief to people on the Haj expenses. The government is still trying to make efforts to provide maximum relief to the intending pilgrims in meeting the Haj expenses.” Ali Mohammad Khan said the increase in the Haj expenses this year was the result of an up to 50 percent increase in the cost n Saudi Arabia and this was beyond the control of the Pakistani government. The minister for parliamentary affairs elaborated, “The rent of buildings was increased from Rs60,900 to Rs94,185,while the cost of transportation increased from Rs9,000 to Rs13,104 and the food charges rose from Rs23,000 to Rs38,000. The accommodation in Medina has increased from Rs23,200 to Rs40,000, the train charges from Rs7,250 to Rs20,000 and the cost of sacrificing animals went up from Rs13,050 to Rs19,451 while the cost of air travel has gone up by Rs17,000.”

“The previous PML-N government deliberately did not increase the Haj expenses in 2017-18, as it was the election year,” the minister added. Further, Ali Muhammad said the devaluation of Pakistani rupee has also caused a surge in Haj expenses. “In a State of Medina people speak the truth and we will establish a State of Medina and show you,” the minister said. The chairman also asked the government to give subsidy to the pilgrims.