Islamabad: More than 700 pilgrims have embarked on their sacred journey as the first flights take off from Pakistan on Sunday. The first Pakistani pilgrims departed on flights from the cities of Karachi, Lahore, and Faisalabad.
Around 316 passengers boarded the first Hajj flight from Karachi city in the early hours of May 21. At the Karachi airport, officials from the religious ministry and Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) presented bouquets to the pilgrims before they boarded the PIA flight PK 773. The inaugural flight of Hajj 2023 from Lahore took off at 05:00 am with a total of 279 pilgrims on board, marking the beginning of their holy journey to Saudi Arabia. Another flight PK 1341 took off from Faisalabad airport, carrying a total of 149 pilgrims.
These initial departures from Karachi, Lahore, and Faisalabad mark the beginning of Hajj 2023 for thousands of Pakistani pilgrims. Officials said that a total of 899 Pakistanis will be arriving in Medina via Serene and PIA flights from different cities on May 21. The first batch of Pakistani Hajj pilgrims arrived in the holy city of Medina on Sunday, the Pakistani religious affairs ministry said.
Hajj flights begin for thousands of Pakistanis
As many as 179,200 Pakistani pilgrims are expected to join Hajj this year. Of these, around 81,230 pilgrims would be performing Hajj under the government scheme, while the rest will be facilitated by private tour operators, according to the authorities.
Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) authorities said that the transportation arrangements have been carefully organised with PIA facilitating 40,700 pilgrims, Saudia Airlines accommodating 36,000, AirBlue handling 2,250, and SereneAir transporting 2,280 pilgrims to Saudi Arabia this year. The largest number of pilgrims, 26,222, will depart from Islamabad, followed by 17,630 from Karachi, 17,629 from Lahore, and a significant number from other cities including Multan, Quetta, Sialkot, Faisalabad, Rahim Yar Khan, Sukkur, and Peshawar.
On May 17, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia signed the ‘Road to Makkah’ agreement in Islamabad during the visit of the Saudi deputy interior minister. The initiative aims to streamline the immigration process for Pakistani pilgrims and ensure a smooth journey to the holy city. The accord will provide pre-clearance facilities at Pakistani airports, eliminating the need for processing at Saudi airports. Initially introduced at Islamabad International Airport, it will be expanded to include Karachi and Lahore airports.