The collection of applications for next year’s Hajj pilgrimage has started.
Under the government scheme, 89,605 Pakistanis will be able to perform Hajj in 2024, while 25,000 seats will be available on a first-come, first-served basis under the sponsorship scheme.
According to the spokesperson of the Ministry of Religious Affairs, Hajj applications under the official scheme will be received from Monday till December 12 at 15 designated banks.
Applications can be submitted on valid Pakistani passports till December 16. The applications can also be submitted on the tokens of passport applications for those who do not possess the travel document yet.
This time, women will be able to perform Hajj without a mehram -- a male companion earlier required to accompany women pilgrims -- for the first time.
Under the sponsorship scheme, 25,000 seats will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, while there will be a lucky draw on the applications received under the regular Hajj scheme.
In an effort to internationalise the annual pilgrimage, applicants residing abroad are required to submit their applications along with dollars.
To prioritise familial ties, the Religious Affairs Ministry has introduced an exemption from the lottery for applicants and their dependents. This strategic move aims to ensure a shared spiritual experience for families and close relatives, fostering a sense of unity during the sacred pilgrimage.
The revised Hajj policy allows individuals under the age of 10 to fulfil their pilgrimage obligation. Simultaneously, private schemes gain flexibility regarding service personnel for those over 80 years old, adapting to the diverse needs of the pilgrim demographic.
In a bid to enhance the welfare of pilgrims during their stay in Saudi Arabia, organizers are now required to enter into agreements with the pilgrims, ensuring the provision of local assistance services. Any violation of these contractual obligations may lead to penalties and the blacklisting of the Hajj organizer, emphasizing the government's commitment to pilgrim safety and support.
The Hajj application can be downloaded from the religious affairs website.