- About 107,000 Pakistanis will perform Hajj under the government Hajj scheme and 77,210 pilgrims will do so through private Hajj schemes
- Pilgrims were offered dates and prayer mats by the Saudi authorities
JEDDAH: The Hajj 2018 season has begun, with the first flights arriving from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Malaysia on Saturday.
King Abdul Aziz International Airport, Jeddah and Prince Mohammed bin Abdul Aziz International Airport, Madinah, are witnessing the start of pilgrimage flights, in which all public and private sectors operating in the airport finished preparations for serving pilgrims from all over the world.
Pakistan has started operating Hajj flights and the first Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight PK-7001, carrying 171 pilgrims from Karachi, landed in Madinah early on Saturday morning.
On the second flight, 186 Pakistani pilgrims reached the King Abdul Aziz International Airport, Jeddah from Islamabad through PK- 741 and were welcomed by Pakistani consulate officers. Saudi Deputy Minister of Hajj Abdullah Al-Fataah and other Saudi officials were also present.
According to Hajj policy 2018, a total of 107,000 Pakistanis will perform Hajj under the government Hajj scheme and 77,210 pilgrims will do so through private Hajj schemes. Hajj flights are also scheduled from other major cities of the country including Peshawar, Multan, Sukkur, Lahore and Faisalabad.
“We have made excellent accommodation, food and transportation arrangements for all the pilgrims with the cooperation of the Saudi government,” Imran Siddiqui, spokesperson for the Pakistani Ministry of Religious Affairs, told Arab News.
He said 184,210 Pakistanis will perform Hajj this year, while flight operations will continue from Saturday till Aug. 15.
Siddiqui said the Saudi Embassy in Islamabad remained open, even in weekends, to process visas and other official requirements for people intending to perform their Hajj.
The Jeddah airport also received the first flight carrying pilgrims from Bangladesh, 419 in total.
Pilgrims were offered dates and prayer mats by the Saudi authorities.
The passengers were received by Vice President of the General Authority for Civil Aviation Sulaiman bin Hamad Al-Bassam, Director General of King Abdul Aziz International Airport Essam Fouad, and a number of government and airport officials.
The Madinah airport also received the first flight carrying pilgrims from Malaysia.
The first Hajj flight from Kabul also arrived in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, carrying 345 Afghan pilgrims.
Hajj flights have started from Kabul and Herat but others will soon leave from Kandahar and Balkh airports, confirmed Faiz Mohammad Osmani, Minister for Hajj and Religious Endowments, on Saturday.
An estimated 30,000 Afghans will perform Hajj this year, out of which the government will sponsor 500 — mainly the family members of those who fell victim to the country’s ongoing war.
The operational plan for the Hajj season this year included preparations for receiving pilgrims and the training of governmental bodies at the airport for finalizing their processes swiftly.