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Falling Pakistan rupee raises pilgrimage cost

Pakistani hajis shop for prayer carpets at Jeddah's old souk in this file photo.

By Irfan Mohammed / 3 Sep 2013

The continuing depreciation of the Pakistani rupee against the dollar has had an impact on the cost of Haj for Pakistanis. This is in addition to an increase in Haj expenses in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Some 143,368 pilgrims are scheduled to arrive from Pakistan next week.

The falling rupee has also had a negative impact on the cost of oil, resulting in an increase in airfares.

The national flag carrier of Pakistan, PIA, has increased its airfares by 10,000 rupees compared to a 1,000-rupee increase last year. This year, a Haj air ticket will cost 87,500 rupees from Karachi against last year's 73,000 rupees.

PIA will be flying 70,024 pilgrims to Jeddah and Madinah on 160 flights during Haj operations, which commence on Sept. 9 and end on Oct. 19. The remaining pilgrims will be transported by Saudia and other carriers.

The exchange rate was 29.7 rupees to the riyal at the time the Haj agreement was signed. Any excess cash resulting from discrepancies in exchange rates since then will be returned to pilgrims, according to sources.

Pilgrims prefer to carry Saudi riyals with them when coming from Pakistan for shopping and other expenses. The exchange rate has surged as many have started buying riyal ahead of Haj.

This year, Pakistani pilgrims under the government’s Haj scheme will travel on Mashair trains for SR450, to be paid through compulsory pilgrimage dues for purchasing sacrificial meat through the Islamic Development Bank. As such, expenses are expected to increase.

Pilgrims coming through the government Haj scheme, however, will not have to pay extra on account of the falling rupee.

“We can’t pinpoint the exact effects of the falling rupee on our Haj plans,” said Syed Abu Ahmed Akif, director-general of the Pakistan Haj mission.

Pakistan has three Haj pilgrim categories. These categories are based on the distance from the Grand Mosque to pilgrims’ accommodation in Makkah and pilgrims are charged accordingly.

According to Pakistan’s 2013 Haj policy, the government has increased “blue” category charges from 319,475 rupees to 411,070 rupees. “Green” category pilgrims departing from Karachi are required to pay 351,070 rupees, compared to last year’s 256,975 rupees.

“White” category pilgrims from Karachi have deposited 285,070 rupees each this year compared to 221,975 rupees last year.

Blue category pilgrims willing to depart from rest of the country are paying 421,070 rupees each this year compared to 331,475 last year.


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