ISLAMABAD - Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has swiftly responded to the needs of Umrah pilgrims by slashing fares by up to Rs6,000.
These reduced rates, effective immediately, will apply to journeys from major Pakistani cities like Lahore, Islamabad, Sialkot, Peshawar, Multan, and Faisalabad to Jeddah.
As per the details, passengers traveling from Karachi and Quetta will now pay Rs79,000, while those from other cities will be charged Rs87,000, excluding taxes, Samaa reported.
This initiative comes as a relief for Pakistani pilgrims grappling with economic challenges and PIA anticipates an uptick in passenger volume and revenue due to this move.
Meanwhile, the eagerly awaited announcement of the Hajj Policy for 2024 faced an unexpected delay, attributed to ongoing efforts to minimize Hajj package costs.
The federal government is also allowing a more flexible 20 to 25-day Hajj package this year to accommodate a wider range of pilgrims.
Earlier, it was reported, though unofficially, that the cost for this year's Hajj pilgrimage would be slightly above Rs. 1 million and the government would retain the Sponsorship scheme under which there will be no balloting.
The Caretaker Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony, Aneeq Ahmed, had earlier affirmed that the Saudi Arabian government is committed to enhancing facilities and services for Pakistani pilgrims during Hajj 2024.
A few days ago, the lawmakers also discussed the fallout of reducing the number of Pakistani Hajj Group Organizers (HGOs) from 905 to only 46.
During the meeting, it was revealed that a letter had been forwarded to the Saudi Hajj and Umrah Ministry, requesting a delay in the reduction for the current year and suggesting a gradual decrease in the upcoming years.
Despite the negotiations underway in this regard, it was highlighted that the Saudi authorities might not budge on their decision, advising the religious affairs ministry to prepare for the upcoming Hajj accordingly.
It bears mentioning that Saudi authorities have also approved the 'Road to Makkah' project from Lahore and Karachi airports while proposing its extension to airports in Peshawar and Quetta.
The 'Road to Makkah' initiative is part of Saudi Arabia’s Guests of God Service Program, which King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud inaugurated in 2019 under Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030. The agreement is renewed every year with countries including Malaysia, Indonesia, Morocco, and Bangladesh.
As per the initiative, Hajj pilgrims are issued visas and provided other services, such as baggage facilities, at their respective countries’ airports. Not only that, the pilgrims move directly to buses to take them to their places of residence in Makkah and Madina while their luggage is delivered to them; it saves pilgrims from many hassles upon arriving in Saudi Arabia.
Pakistani rupee remains stable against US dollar in the open market on February 29, 2024 (Thursday).
In the open market, the US dollar was being quoted at 279.1 for buying and 282.35 for selling.
Euro currently stands at 303 for buying and 306 for selling while British Pound rate stands at 352 for buying, and 355.5 for selling.
UAE Dirham AED hovers at 76 whereas the Saudi Riyal saw slight increase, with new rates at 74.3.
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