News Analysis |
Prime Minister Imran Khan has responded to recent criticism over his government’s decision to end subsidy on Hajj. PM Khan said that the government would have offered free pilgrimage to people if it did not have to pay “huge loans”. The Prime Minister was speaking at the inauguration of the Railway Live Tracking System and the Thal Express service in Islamabad when he justified his government’s decision to end 63% subsidy on Hajj.
It is important to mention here that the federal cabinet on February 1st ended the subsidy on hajj in its Hajj Policy 2019. According to the new policy, the cost of performing the ritual under the government scheme has been fixed at Rs456,426 (with Qurbani), against last year’s expense of Rs280,000 per person.
The Saudi government has levied 5 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) due to which each country has to pay an additional 1200 Saudi Riyals per pilgrim, informed the minister.
Moreover, under the Hajj Policy 2018, the cost of hajj for individuals in the north of the country was Rs280,000 and for the south, it was Rs270,000. However, in the new policy, the cost of hajj for individuals in the north has been fixed at Rs456,426 (with Qurbani) and Rs436,975 (without Qurbani), while for those in the south it is Rs446,426 (with Qurbani) and Rs426,975 (without Qurbani).
After the PTI government decided to end subsidy, opposition parties Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) severely criticized the government for making it difficult for the ordinary people to perform Hajj. But the government and political commentators justified the decision, saying anyone who does not have enough resources to perform Hajj is not required to go to Saudi Arabia.
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“Hajj is for those who can afford it. It is the principle of Islam. The government is absolutely not responsible to provide people with subsidies and loans to perform Hajj,” said prominent Political commentator Mr. Haroon ur Rashid in a TV show.
It is also worth noting here that the Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Noorul Haq Qadri said while speaking to a private outlet that the government has withdrawn Rs4.5 billion financial assistance which it was paying as a subsidy for the pilgrims. The government did it since it was no longer affordable for the government, he added.
Moreover, according to details this year 184,000 Pakistanis will perform Hajj rituals out of which 107,000 will go on government quota whereas the remaining will perform this religious ritual on private quota, informed the minister.
“Pakistan’s Haj expenditures are still the lowest in the region if you count it in US dollar as India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Indonesia that are charging way more,” commented the minister.
The previous government was paying Rs42,000 subsidy on each pilgrim which put an additional burden of Rs4.5 billion on national exchequer. Keeping the current financial situation of the country, the Federal Cabinet has decided to withdraw this subsidy, Federal Minister clarified.
Most importantly, the federal minister informed that each pilgrim has to pay Rs63,000 extra due to rupee devaluation. Similarly, Rs17,000 have been increased in the airfare and Rs45,000 have been increased as the Saudi government has increased the prices of accommodation, transportation, and meals.
The Saudi government has levied 5 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) due to which each country has to pay an additional 1200 Saudi Riyals per pilgrim, informed the minister. “Pakistan’s Haj expenditures are still the lowest in the region if you count it in US dollar as India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Indonesia that are charging way more,” commented the minister.
Yesterday PM Khan also responded to the opposition and said: “if you had not left the country in this condition [and] if we did not have so many debts, then we would have certainly sent pilgrims [to hajj] for free.” Moreover, although the country is mired in economic crisis and the government has approached several friendly countries and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout, the premier said that in spite of a prevailing crisis, the country has a bright future.