As a last-minute decision on Friday, the Religious Affairs Ministry decided to halt the Hajj balloting which was scheduled today as per previous announcements.  The decision was taken in accordance with the stay order issued by the SHC (Sindh High Court).

On Thursday, the Sukkur bench of the Sindh High Court released a stay order on the Hajj balloting during the hearing session of a petition which declared that some of the conditions and limitation of the new Hajj policy are anti-Islam and Sharia.

As per sources, the ministry of religious affairs held a high-profile meeting at Islamabad. The decision announced today is taken after the meeting.

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Khalid Masood—Secretary Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony shared that the balloting has been postponed because of the different decisions from three different courts on the quota-related matter.

He said that the LHC (Lahore High Court) had instructed that the government and private scheme quota should be fifty-fifty.

A two-member bench of the SHC ordered that the quota division be sixty-forty, for the government and private schemes respectively.

On the other hand, last year, the federal cabinet decided on a sixty-seven percent quota for the Hajj pilgrims going via the government scheme and thirty-three percent for the private operators, as informed by Masood.

The high court was also approached by a petitioner against the clause of certain period limitation on individuals who have performed Hajj once before they could perform Hajj again.

After serious legal considerations on the decision taken by the SHC, the ministry of religious affairs has decided to take the matter up to the Supreme Court. A new fresh date for the new Hajj balloting would then be announced.

This year a record-breaking number of Hajj applications was received for the Government Hajj scheme 2018. The number of applications received is 374,829 out of which only 120,000 would be chosen via the balloting. The highest number of applications were received from the city of lights that is Karachi, followed by Lahore and then the federal capital. Other cities that received a good amount of applications are Multan, Peshawar, Faisalabad, Quetta, Rahimyar Khan, Sukkur and Sialkot, as per the details provided by a senior official of the ministry.

Hajj quota is one significant issue that always emerges every year with many petitions filed against the government’s policy.

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