ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Saudi Arabia on Wednesday signed an agreement for the start of the Road to Makkah project aimed to facilitate immigration and customs clearance for Haj pilgrims.
The agreement was signed at the Prime Minister’s House during a visit by the Deputy Interior Minister of Saudi Arabia Dr Nasir bin Abdul Aziz Al-Dawood. Minister for Interior Rana Sanaullah and the Saudi minister signed the document. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Saudi Ambassador in Islamabad Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki witnessed the ceremony. Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Talha Mahmood, Federal Minister for Narcotics Control Shahzain Bugti and Special Assistant to PM Tariq Fatemi were also present.
Under the agreement, Pakistani Hajj pilgrims would be provided immigration facilities in Pakistan and exempted from the process at Saudi airports for the Hajj 2023. The service would be available at the Islamabad International Airport where around 26,000 pilgrims would benefit. The Saudi minister assured that the facility would be extended to Karachi and Lahore airports. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia also signed the joint minutes of the meeting in which they discussed the issuance of Pakistani passports to Burmese Muslims residing in Saudi Arabia on Pakistani passports.
The passports of Burmese Muslims were not renewed after 2012 which created difficulties for them in the kingdom. Under the arrangement, Burmese Muslims and their children would be issued passports to improve their legal status in Saudi Arabia. As per the discussion, a bilateral committee would be formed comprising representatives of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to work out the early issuance of documents to Burmese Muslims.
Following the signing ceremony, Prime Minister Shehbaz presented a souvenir to the Saudi dignitary who also reciprocated the gesture by presenting a memento to the prime minister.
Meanwhile, Dr Nasir bin Abdul Aziz Al-Dawood called on Shehbaz Sharif. The prime minister thanked the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for its support during last year’s floods. He thanked the kingdom for extending support to evacuate Pakistanis stranded in Sudan. The prime minister showed his appreciation for the kingdom for including Pakistan in the Road to Makkah project. Referring to recent Saudi-Iran agreements to normalize ties, the PM hoped that this would help promote regional peace and security. The Saudi minister thanked Pakistan for the warm hospitality extended to him and his delegation. He said the brotherly ties between Pakistan and KSA were rooted in history.
He showed his satisfaction over his useful meetings with Pakistani ministers for Interior, Religious Affairs and Narcotics Control.