The Pakistani Government’s efforts to sponsor half of its citizens’ Hajj trips have fallen short, with only 6,500 applications received against 44,500 seats. This represents a significant departure from the government’s expectations, as it had anticipated 44,500 applications for the new Hajj Sponsorship Scheme. The scheme aimed to provide half of the quota to non-resident Pakistanis, with the potential to save around $440 million. However, with only 6,500 applications received, the scheme failed to achieve its objectives.
According to sources, the government increased the expenditure for Hajj by 36 percent compared to last year, primarily due to the depreciation of the Pakistani Rupee against the US dollar. The Saudi authorities have allocated a Hajj quota of 179,210 to Pakistan for the year 2023. However, due to severe economic constraints, the government cannot afford to allow a massive capital flight
.Out of the Government and Private Hajj Schemes, a quota of 50 percent each shall be reserved for the Sponsorship Scheme. Under the Sponsorship Scheme, applicants will be required to deposit their Hajj dues in foreign exchange remitted from abroad and will not be allowed to deposit the Hajj dues from foreign currency accounts in Pakistan.
The Hajj Sponsorship Scheme aimed to offer half of the quota, or 89,605 seats, to non-resident Pakistanis. The non-resident Pakistanis could either avail the quota themselves or sponsor someone from Pakistan. Officials estimated that around $440 million could be saved by offering half of the quota to non-resident Pakistanis.
For the year 2023, the tentative Hajj Package for the North region (Multan, Lahore, Sialkot, Islamabad Rahim Yar Khan, Faisalabad, and Peshawar) is Rs. 1,165,000/ and for the South Region (Karachi, Sukkur and Quetta) is Rs. 1,125,000/.
It is the first time that the government could not utilize its Hajj quota due to the economic crisis in the country. The foreign exchange cover required for this year’s Government Hajj Scheme was $284 million. The matching Rupee cover against this allocation shall be provided from the Pilgrims Welfare Fund (PWF) Hajj collection account of the Ministry.
The Sponsorship Scheme of the Government Hajj quota was on a first-come-first-served basis. Still, with little interest from overseas, the scheme’s formula could not be applied. The poor response to the Hajj Sponsorship Scheme highlights the economic constraints faced by the Pakistani Government, making it challenging to fund such initiatives
The poor response to the Hajj Sponsorship Scheme indicates that the government’s efforts to sponsor half of its citizens’ Hajj trips have fallen short, with only 6,500 applications received against 44,500 seats. The government’s target of 89,000 applicants was not reached, with less than 80,000 applications received through both regular and sponsorship schemes. The economic crisis faced by the country has made it challenging to fund such initiatives, as demonstrated by the low number of applicants