ISLAMABAD - The biometric verification of the intending Hajj pilgrims started yesterday in 27 cities across the country as a pre-requisite for visa processing of Saudi Arabia, said an official of Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony.

According to an official, the ministry has asked the intending pilgrims of Government Hajj Scheme to ensure conducting their biometric verification according to schedule. The schedule of conducting verification has already been sent to pilgrims through telephone, SMS. A pilgrim could also check his or her scheduled appearance in their respective Etimad office by clicking ministry’s website or ministry’s help lines (042) 111 725425; (051) 9205696, (051) 9216980-82 and through Haji camps to ensure biometric verification before submitting their passports for the issuance of visa.

He said the verification was being conducted by Etimad Visa Service Centers as per scheduled time and date and pilgrims should keep original bank receipts, copies of computerized national identity cards (CNIC) and passports with them before going for verification.

The verification would be conducted free of charge barring over 80 years old pilgrims and children of below six years of age. The biometric verification of intending pilgrims would be conducted at 27 Visa Service Centres of Etimad, in Faisalabad, Multan, Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta, Sukkar, Sialkot, Rahim Yar Khan. D I Khan, Swat, Jhang, Swabi, Mardan, Hyderabad, Gujrat, Sahiwal, Mansehra, Khushab, Gilgit, Mirpur (AJK), Rajanpur, Gujranwala, Mirpur Khas (Sindh), Kohat and Kasur,

He said the hujjaj would not be allowed to leave for Saudi Arabia sans biometric verification.