Saudi Arabia agrees to abolish Umrah tax on Pak pilgrims
Islamabad, Oct 17 : Saudi Arabia has agreed to waive 2,000-riyal tax imposed on Pakistanis performing Umrah every year on the request of Prime Minister Imran Khan, a media report said Wednesday.
The Senate Standing Committee on Religious Affairs was informed on Tuesday that Prime Minister Khan had requested Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud to abolish the tax imposed by the Saudi government on Pakistanis during his visit to the Gulf country last month.
"I have been informed that this was some kind of a discriminatory tax on Pakistanis and the government should do something about it," Senator Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri said.
Secretary of Religious Affairs Muhammad Mushtaq said the tax was imposed to discourage repeated Umrah by a few people only and had recently been slapped on anyone coming from any country of the world.
"However this new tax of 2,000 riyals (USD 533) 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 was quoted as saying by the Dawn newspaper.
He said that the matter had been taken up with the Saudi authorities in Islamabad and it was suggested that Prime Minister Khan should make the request to the Saudi crown prince for the tax waiver.
"The prime minister during his visit to Saudi kingdom took up the matter with the Saudi crown prince and he has agreed to abolish the tax," Mushtaq said, adding that it was a matter of time before the Saudi government would notify the waiver.
Some senators, however, criticised the prime minister's move, saying it would benefit only a few rich people who wanted to perform Umrah every year.
The number of Umrah visas issued this year has reached 421,411, according to data provided by the Saudi Arabia's Hajj and Umrah Ministry.
The largest number of pilgrims are from Pakistan (82,169) followed by India with 49,492 and with Indonesia 16,259, Arab News reported.
The Umrah - an Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Hijaz, Saudi Arabia- is performed by Muslims and can be undertaken at any time of the year, unlike hajj which has specific dates according to the Islamic lunar calendar.