Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan on Friday responded to the opposition’s call to attention notice regarding an exorbitant increase in Hajj expenses this year and said that 70% of the expenditure is incurred in Saudi Arabia and the government has no control over it.

Jamaat-e-Islami Senator Mushtaq Ahmed Khan moved a call to attention notice over the government’s decision to not grant a subsidy to pilgrims in the Hajj Policy 2019.

“The government had claimed that a ‘State of Medina’ will be made but its first Hajj policy is disappointing. The highest number of pilgrims who go for Hajj and Umrah are from Pakistan,” the JI senator said. “Hajj has become a part of the tsunami of inflation,” he added.

“Those who claimed to make a ‘State of Medina’ are stopping people from going to Makkah and Medina,” Senator Mushtaq lamented.

Responding to the call to attention notice, the minister for parliamentary affairs said, “Finance Minister Asad Umar wanted to give relief to people on Hajj expenses. The government is still trying to make efforts to provide maximum relief to intending pilgrims in meeting Hajj expenses.”

“The recent increase in Hajj expenses is a result of an up to 50% increased expenditure in Saudi Arabia and this is beyond the control of Pakistani government,” he continued.

“Seventy percent of Hajj expenditures are incurred in Saudi Arabia and the government of Pakistan cannot control them,” Ali Mohammad added.

The minister for parliamentary affairs elaborated, “The rent of buildings was increased from Rs60,900 to Rs94,185 while the cost of transportation increased from Rs9,000 to Rs13,104 and food charges rose from Rs23,000 to Rs38000. The accommodation in Medina increased from Rs23,200 to Rs40,000, train charges from Rs7,250 to Rs 20,000 and the cost of sacrificing animals went up from Rs13,050 to Rs19,451 rupees while the cost of air travel has gone up by Rs17,000.”

“The previous PML-N government deliberately did not increase Hajj expenses in 2017-18 as it was election year,” the minister for parliamentary affairs added.

Further, Ali Muhammad said the “devaluation of Pakistani rupee has also caused a surge in Hajj expenses”. “In a “State of Medina” people speak the truth and we will establish a “State of Medina” and show you,” the minister said.

The Senate chairman also asked the government to give a subsidy to pilgrims.