ABU DHABI // Pakistani expatriates hope a new consular system allowing them to obtain their Haj visas in this country will make it easier to undertake the pilgrimage.
Many Pakistanis living in the UAE who want to make the trip to Mecca say they cannot afford the high costs, which can reach Dh45,000, despite it being a mandatory religious duty for Muslims.
If they book their Haj with a company in Pakistan, it costs between Dh20,000 and Dh26,000. The government of Pakistan also gives grants to pilgrims that cover about half of this cost.
But, because they have to start their journey and get their visas stamped in Pakistan, it makes the logistics of the journey very difficult.
Dr Faisal Ahmad, deputy head of mission of the Pakistan Counsellor Community, said pilgrims could now get their visas stamped at the embassy in the UAE for a Haj that starts in Pakistan.
“Pakistanis living in the UAE can send their passport to Pakistan through its mission for Haj visas,” Dr Ahmad said.
He said the embassy dispatched passports of Haj applicants to the Overseas Pakistanis Foundation, which gave them to individuals nominated by the applicants who would get their Haj visas from the Saudi embassy in Pakistan.
“Once the visa is stamped, passports are returned to the embassy by the OPF, which then hands them over to the applicants,” he said.
Hafiz Babar, manager of the Al Baraq Haj Umra travel company in Sharjah, said many Pakistanis preferred to apply for Haj travel visas in their own country.
“However, a lot of people have had to give up the idea only because they cannot send their passport to get Haj visas stamped independently,” he said.
Zarin Masood, 33, a mother of three who lives in Sharjah, said the high costs in the UAE deterred her from undertaking Haj.
“We decided to apply from Pakistan where the cost is very much more affordable. Making arrangements from here is mission impossible,” said Ms Masood, whose husband works for a private company.
The journey to Pakistan for the visa “requires an extra 20 to 25 days, apart from Haj holidays, and also incurs extra cost of travelling apart”.
Her husband’s company would not give him paid holiday for logistical preparation. “Those extra days will be counted as unpaid leave.”
Source: uae news