ISLAMABAD - The government on Thursday acknowledged to increase Hajj package by Rs125,000 instead of the early estimated hike of Rs63,000,taking the total of almost 5,75000.

The secretary of religious affairs told Senate Standing Committee on Religious Affairs and Inter-Faith Harmony that the rupee depreciation, implementation of tax by the Saudi government and airfare hike led to make the Hajj more expensive.

The secretary also revealed that about 179,000 people will go for Hajj this year.  He admitted that this year’s Hajj package had the hike of Rs115,000 as the North Region’s package will cost Rs550,000 while that of the South Region Rs5,45000

The Chairman of the committee Senator Molana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri during the meeting expressed annoyance over the absence of Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Inter-Faith Harmony Noorul Haq Qadri.

The committee due to the absence of the minister postponed the meeting and warned that the matter would be sent to Senate chairman, if the minister was absent in next meeting.

Meanwhile, talking to the media, the committee chairman and JUI-F leader Abdul Ghafoor Haideri said that the Hajj fares were increased last year and this year the government has also decided to inflate the prices for Hajj.

He stated that the minister, including the secretary did not pay any attention to their responsibilities, adding that they must be very vigilant and responsible towards their job.

He said that he had informed Saudi Arabia about the meeting but the minister was yet to respond, saying that they were not ready to tolerate this none-serious attitude ahead.

He said the ministry should not work independent of the Senate committee watching this shaky situation; it seems difficult for an ordinary man to perform Hajj. However, Hafiz Abdul Kareem, member of the Panel, while lashing out at the government by saying that if it was an event of Kartarpur; the minister would have gone towards it. Jamaat-e-Islami Chief Sirajul Haq also expressed disappointment over the absence of minister.