Imran Khan. Image Credit: Reuters

Islamabad: Saudi Arabia has agreed to withdraw an additional Umrah fee of SAR2,000 (Dh1,958) for Pakistanis following a request made by Prime Minister Imran Khan during his recent visit to Saudi Arabia.

The information was shared by secretary of religious affairs Mohammad Mushtaq with the senate committee that met to discuss the problems faced by Pakistanis while performing Haj and Umrah.

The chairman of senate standing committee on religious affairs, senator Maulana Abdul Ghafour Haideri, said he had received several complaints about the “discriminatory tax” of SAR2,000 by Saudi government on Pakistani pilgrims performing more than one Umrah within two years.

Mushtaq explained that the rationale behind the Saudi move was to discourage repeated Umrah by some people and that the same tax had been levied on all pilgrims. “However this new tax of SAR2,000 on people performing more than one Umrah within two years has been abolished for the people of Egypt and Turkey after requests were made by governments of these countries to the Saudi government,” Mushtaq said.

The matter had been first taken up with the Saudi authorities in Islamabad and later “the prime minister during his visit to Saudi kingdom took up the matter with the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman and he has agreed to abolish the tax,” the secretary said, adding that the Saudi government would notify the waiver soon.

The committee was also informed about this year’s Haj operations and that the ministry of religious affairs would start preparations for Haj 2019 in January.

Saudi Arabia was the first foreign destination of Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan where he held meetings with Saudi King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud and the Crown to enhance cooperation in political, defence, economic, commercial, and cultural sectors, as well as developing “joint ventures.”

A recent meeting between Pakistan’s minister for information Chaudhry Fawad Hussain and Ambassador of Saudi Arabia Nawaf Bin Saeed Al Malki also highlighted the close relations between the two friendly countries. The information minister said Pakistan has always valued its cordial and friendly relations with the brotherly country, while the Saudi Ambassador asserted that Saudi Arabia considers Pakistan a friend with whom Riyadh enjoys time-tested close relations.