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Govt Hajj Sponsorship Scheme failed miserably

ISLAMABAD (IA Mughal):- New Hajj Sponsorship Scheme launched by Premier Shehbaz Sharif Government for overseas Pakistanis to generate $440 million was completely failed mainly due to non interest of overseas Pakistani, it was learned.

According to draft of the Hajj Policy, the government had increase the expenditure of the Hajj by 36 percent as compared to the last year mainly due to depreciation of the local currency against US dollar.

The Hajj quota allocated to Pakistan by the Saudi Authorities for the year 2023 is 179210 but due to severe economic constraints, the government cannot afford to allow a massive capital flight, said a finance ministry official.

According to the Hajj Policy, the allocated quota shall be distributed between the Government and Private Hajj Schemes at a ratio of 50 percent each. The Government has given its slice to Private Sector under the new policy. The approved policy shows that the government has given 10 percent its quota to private sector through new policy. The quota of private sector was increased from 40 percent to 50 percent under the new Hajj Policy.  

Out of the Government and Private Hajj Schemes, a quota of 50 percent each shall be reserved for Sponsorship Scheme. Under the Sponsorship Scheme, the applicants shall be required to deposit their Hajj dues in foreign exchange remitted from abroad and will not be allowed to deposit the Hajj dues from the foreign currency accounts in Pakistan.

Owing to economic constraints, the government had decided to incorporate “Sponsorship Scheme” for giving half of the Hajj quota of its citizens to Pakistanis living abroad. Under the scheme, the Government Hajj quota is expected to generate about $194 million and the Private Hajj Scheme more than $250 million, depending on the cost of various packages and applications received for it, said in the draft of the Hajj Policy.

Keeping that in mind, the government has decided that half of the quota, or 89,605, would be offered to non-resident Pakistanis. The non-resident Pakistanis could either avail of the quota themselves or sponsor someone from Pakistan, said the official. Officials estimated that around $440 million could be saved by offering half of the quota to the non-resident Pakistanis.

For the year 2023, tentative Hajj Package for North region (Multan, Lahore, Sialkot, Islamabad Rahim Yar Khan, Faisalabad and Peshawar) is Rs.1165000/ and for the South Region (Karachi, Sukkur and Quetta) is PKR 1125000/. The cost of Hajj per Haji was around Rs860,000 during the last year. The data shows that the cost of Hajj for Pakistani nationals was surged by around 36 percent during last one year due to free fall of local currency against the last year. The USD has been increased almost by Rs.100 during the last one year.  

Sources told the scribe that the government has received on around 72 thousands applications from local and around 6500 from abroad during the given time. The government was expecting 44500 applications from the New Hajj Sponsor Scheme under the government scheme. Instead of the expectation, the government received only 6500 application.

The Hajj Sponsorship Scheme which was launched for overseas Pakistanis was completely failed to get its results as the overseas Pakistanis didnt interest in the scheme, sources told the scribe. The govt had target of 89 thousands applicants but it also could not get the target. The government could get less than 80 thousands schemes through both regular and sponsorship schemes which is around 10000 less than target. Due to low number of applicants, the government has to surrender the Hajj quota.

It is first time the government could not utilized its hajj quota due to economic crises in the country.

The foreign exchange was covering required for this year Government Hajj Scheme was $284 million. The matching Rupee cover against this allocation shall be provided from Pilgrims Welfare Fund (PWF) Hajj collection account of this Ministry. If full quota of the Government Sponsorship Scheme was utilized, then its dues will amount to USD 194 million as the intending pilgrims of sponsorship Scheme will deposit total Hajj dues including airfare and service charges in foreign exchange. In that case $90 million (284 minus 194) will be required from the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) according to the draft of the scheme.

The Sponsorship Scheme of Government Hajj quota was on first come first served basis. But least interest of the overseas, the first come and first come formula could not applied.

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