The Hajj pilgrimage, which is a significant religious occasion attracting millions of Muslims from around the globe, has become more difficult to undertake due to the rising cost of the trip. This year, the Hajj authorities in Pakistan are encountering a major setback as they have received only 89,000 applications, well below the expected quota of 179,210 pilgrims. Consequently, the officials are compelled to review all applicants for both the regular government scheme and the Sponsorship Scheme without the requirement for a ballot.
Although the Saudi Arabian government has reinstated pre-Covid levels for the number of pilgrims attending Hajj, the high expense associated with performing the pilgrimage has made it difficult for many people to afford. As a result, the number of applications submitted for the regular government scheme and the Sponsorship Scheme has decreased, leading officials to express concern.
This year, the Sponsorship Scheme, aimed at making the Hajj pilgrimage more affordable, has not attracted a significant number of pilgrims. The program enables pilgrims to request foreign exchange from abroad and deposit it into a designated dollar account of the religious affairs ministry. Despite reserving 50% of the quota for the scheme, the number of applications has fallen below expectations.
If the number of applications fails to increase soon, authorities have suggested that all applicants be declared successful, allowing them to perform Hajj this year, irrespective of their eligibility under the Sponsorship Scheme or the regular government scheme. However, officials are urging prospective pilgrims to take advantage of the Sponsorship Scheme to make the pilgrimage more accessible and cost-effective.