Pir Muhammad Amin-ul-Hasnat Shah—State Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony informed on Monday that the Ministry is planning to launch a Hajj and Umrah Services Bill in the National Assembly for modifying the Umrah activities.

The state Minister of Religious Affairs while responding to the attention notice of Ms Zahra Wadood Fatemi, Ms Kiran Haider, Ms Naeema Kishwer Khan and Ms Surriya Asghar in the National Assembly said that Umrah services would come under the sphere of Ministry of religious affairs once the Bill passes from the Parliament.

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At present, the Umrah services are not being managed by the ministry.

Relating the matter of the biometric verification, the state minister informed that the adults intending to go for Umrah and are above the age of forty-five years and the children under twelve years would be exempted from the biometric verification.

He further informed that the Saudi company that is involved in the procedure of conducting the biometric verification of Umrah Pilgrims has increased its number of offices up to twenty-seven in Pakistan for providing services to the Umrah aspirants. The number of offices would further be increased with time.

Answering a question relating the new Hajj quota allotment to the Hajj Group Organizers (HGOs) he said no new quota is being allotted.

The ministry has already annulled the Hajj quota of the HGOs and has appointed the services of the Chartered Accountant Company for evaluating the performance of the HGOs. After they are assessed then the Hajj quota would be allotted on merit basis.

He further mentioned that a total of forty-seven cases have been filed in the different courts for the stay of Hajj balloting which was initially planned to take place on the 26th of January.

The ministry began the Hajj arrangement process a month or two prior to provide better facilities to the Hajj pilgrims, but the process has been suffering because of the stay orders against doing the Hajj balloting.

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