Pakistan and Saudi Arabia officials have paid a visit to Islamabad International Airport to review preparations for Hajj pilgrims under ‘Road to Makkah’ project. Advisor to Prime Minister Imran Khan on Establishment Shehzad Arbab, Secretary Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan and other officials visited the Islamabad airport.
The Pakistani and Saudi high-ups were given a detailed briefing by immigration staff members at the airport. Immigration officials said that the department will ensure the provision of e-visas, customs, vaccination and immigration services to 22,000 Hajj pilgrims under the pilot project which enables the travellers’ luggage to reach directly to their residences.
They briefed that Prime Minister Imran Khan had taken personal interest for the inclusion of Pakistan in the project. the higher authorities have selected Islamabad International Airport for the ‘Road to Makkah’ pilot project for Hajj 2019 which exhibited longstanding bilateral ties of both countries.
After successful execution of the pilot project, the project will be expanded to other airports of the country, officials said. Saudi government had initiated this project first in Malaysia and Indonesia last year and later Saudi Crown Prince had announced the inclusion of Pakistan in the project, officials added.
Earlier in the day, it emerged that Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan and Saudi Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s joint venture for facilitating Pakistani pilgrims ‘Road To Makkah’ to get underway soon as migrant registration systems installed on airport. The program will allow Pakistani Hajj hopefuls to register themselves for the holy pilgrimage and its immigration procedure.
On the occasion, Saudi officials said that the project was one of the important decisions taken under Vision 2030 by Saudi Arabian government which focused on completion of e-visas, custom clearance and immigration process in the country sending their pilgrims to the holy land for performing rituals. Eight more immigration officers arrived at Islamabad International Airport today adding to the tally of 60 officers based on the amalgamation of Civil Aviation Authorities (CAA) and Saudi officials.
Moreover, first Hajj flight will take off from Islamabad International Airport on Thursday.
Minister for Religious Affairs Pir Noor-ul Haq Qadri and Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan will see off the intending pilgrims at the airport. According to Spokesperson for Religious Affairs Ministry, the first Hajj flight from Lahore will depart tomorrow while Hajj flight operation from Karachi and Peshawar will begin on Friday.
It is pertinent to mention here that for the first time Pakistan International Airlines is starting direct Hajj flights from Quetta this year. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan will inaugurate Road to Makkah project from Islamabad airport on Friday to facilitate Pakistani intending pilgrims to complete their immigration and other formalities at their home airport.
According to Spokesperson of Ministry of Religious Affairs Imran Siddiqui, Saudi officials have setup special counters at Islamabad airport to clear immigration process of Hujjaj in Pakistan. He made it clear that Road to Makkah project will be equally beneficial to intending pilgrims either leaving for Madina or Jeddah airports.
He said that the Road to Makkah programme is a pilot project being started from Islamabad airport and will be extended to other airports of the country in subsequent years. The Spokesperson said Road to Makkah project is a gift from Saudi Arabia to Pakistani intending pilgrims and 21,000 Hujjaj will be benefited from this initiative. He said Prime Minister Imran Khan had requested Saudi Crown Prince during his visit to Islamabad to include Pakistan in Road to Makkah project.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs has also started issuance of E-Visa for Hajj Pilgrims under government Hajj Scheme. Ten Haji camps have become functional across the country.
The intending Hujjaj will be provided passports, tickets, lockets and stickers before Hajj flight.