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Image Credit: Reuters

Islamabad: As many as 50,000 Pakistanis may be allowed to perform the annual Islamic Haj pilgrimage this year, minister for religious affairs and interfaith harmony Noor-ur-Haq Qadri said.

Pakistan will go ahead with the preparations for Haj 2021, which will take place under special circumstances with special rules and regulations, eligibility, criteria and age restrictions due to the continued pandemic threat.

However, the country is still awaiting confirmation from Saudi Arabia on the terms of departure. The Saudi government has not yet given a green signal for Haj 2021 as they were still weighing possibilities to make the pilgrimage safe and secure during the pandemic, the minister said.

After confirmation from the Saudi authorities, the intending pilgrims would be required to strictly follow the coronavirus guidelines during Haj, Qadri said.

Pakistan’s religious minister informed the people that only those worshippers who have already received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine would be allowed to travel to Saudi Arabia for Haj this year as per Saudi Ministry of Haj and Umrah’s instructions. He also said the pilgrims aged under 20 years or over 50 years of age may not be permitted to perform Haj this year.

In normal years, some 200,000 Pakistanis travel to Mecca to perform the Haj. Last year, Haj was limited to just 10,000 pilgrims with only those residing in the country invited to attend due to the threat of the coronavirus pandemic.