LAHORE - The Lahore High Court yesterday expressed dismay over ministry of religious affairs for restricting a 45-year old lady from performing haj without ‘Mahram’ (an unmarriageable kin) despite that the Saudi government had not imposed such condition.

Justice Ayesha A Malik heard the case filed by Syed Ali Hadi against the discrimination with Shia Muslims by ministry of religious affairs. As the hearing commenced, Haj Director Malik Saeed appeared before the judge and sought time for the compliance of the previous order of the court. The judge asked him as to under what law they were restricting women from performing Haj when there was no such bar from the Saudi government. But the official failed to answer the question.

The judge directed the Haj director to make amendments to their online application forms and make its advertisement properly so the people could know about the changes. The official requested the court to give some time to comply with the court’s order. His plea was accepted by the judge who gave him time until July 19.

The court also extended deadline for submission of applications forms from July 15 to July 22.

On April 1, 2016, the ministry of religious affairs undertook before the LHC to amend a question, which offended Shia community, in Haj application form from “Are you Shia?” to “Do you require Shia facilities?”.

A deputy attorney general submitted the undertaking in the court on behalf of Haj Secretary during hearing of petition questioning alleged discrimination with Shia community in performance of Haj.

The petitioner through his counsel Barrister Maqsooma Zahra Bokhari submitted that the authorities at the ministry had been committing contempt of court by violating its undertaking. The counsel argued that  Shia pilgrims continued to face discriminatory treatment at the hands of the ministry on account of facilities.

The counsel submitted that Shia women were being discriminated in the name of “Mahram”. The petitioner pointed out that online system of the ministry had not been accepting application of any Shia woman wanted to perform haj without “Mahram” whether she was aged 45, 85 or 16 years old or whatever Fiqh she belonged to.

The counsel prayed the court to direct the ministry to facilitate Shia pilgrims as per their Fiqh and order it to allocate special quota for them.