President of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) Shamim Ahmed Firpo has asked the Saudi Government to review and withdraw the decision taken by the Council of Saudi Arabian Ministers regarding implementation of 2,000 Saudi Riyal Umrah Visa fee to be levied for Umrah pilgrimage during 1438 Hijri. Shamim Ahmed Firpo, in a statement, pointed out that Pakistan, being the second largest Islamic country in terms of population, sends around 1 million pilgrims every year to Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah but, being an underdeveloped country, majority of the country’s population belongs to mediocre and under-privileged class, hence such a huge amount of fee to be levied from Umrah pilgrims will surely overburden them and result in substantial reduction of Umrah visitors to the holy land.
He said that although the Saudi Embassy and its Consulate in Karachi have not issued any formal notification so far about the revision of Umrah Fee but various reports in print and electronic media along with widespread stories in social media indicate that the Saudi Arabian Council of Ministers has taken the decision to revise Umrah Fee and fee of other visa categories. “The upsurge in Umrah fee has triggered anxiety amongst the masses, particularly those individuals who have a limited income and are already overburdened in the ongoing era of inflation”, he added.
Referring to numerous media reports appearing in a number of Saudi news websites, President KCCI mentioned that these stories suggest that the Saudi Arabian Government will only bear fee of 2,000 riyals on behalf of those pilgrims who are willing to perform Umrah for first time in Hijri year 1438 whereas, this fee will be borne by pilgrims themselves in case they intend to perform Umrah for second or more times in the same Hijri year.
He was of the view that the decision to charge 2,000 Saudi riyals from Umrah Pilgrims will deprive thousands of Pakistanis to visit the holy land for performing this important holy obligation as most of the population will surely be unable to afford such an exorbitant hike in Umrah visa fee.
Taking into consideration the historic and time-tested relationship between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, Shamim Firpo was fairly optimistic that the Saudi government will pay attention to Karachi Chamber’s request by reviewing the decision of Council of Saudi Arabian Ministers pertaining to the upward revision of Umrah Visa fee and issue directives to withdraw the abovementioned charges to facilitate millions of Pakistani Umrah pilgrims who visit Saudi Arabia every year. President KCCI, in letters issued to Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Religious Affairs, appealed to take up this issue with Saudi authorities with a view to ensure relief for the intending Umrah Pilgrims.