Thursday, 7 July, 2022

Govt races against time to start Hajj flights May 31

The government is putting its best efforts to launch this year’s Hajj flights as per the schedule though the Hajj agencies have doubt about the possibility of launching the flights as planned.

After a high-level meeting on April 27, the government announced that the first Hajj flight would leave for Saudi Arabia on May 31.

Ruling out the concerns of Hajj Agencies Association of Bangladesh (HAAB) over the launch of Hajj flights, State Minister for Religious Affairs Md Faridul Haque Khan told the Daily Sun that they have been trying to operate the first Hajj flight according to the schedule.

“It will be a huge challenge to start this year’s first Hajj flight on May 31, but we are ready to take that challenge,” he said.

The HAAB expressed their doubt over the possibility of maintaining the schedule planned by the ministry.

Asked about the regular Hajj flight operations, the state minister said right now the government is concentrating on the first Hajj flight.

“We have been working round the clock to make Hajj flight operations smoother. It will be clear after the inaugural flight,” he said.

Director of Hajj office Saiful Islam said they have been completing all necessary preparations to serve the aspirant pilgrims in the Hajj camp at Ashkona.

 “The ministry has informed us that this year’s first Hajj flight carrying 419 passengers will leave for Saudi Arabia on May 31 and we are working keeping this in mind,” he said.

“We will inform the passengers about the flight departure time and details in advance through SMS or other means,” the Hajj office director said, adding that the pilgrims will be able to arrive at the camp three days before the flight.

But the leaders of the Hajj Agencies Association of Bangladesh (HAAB) have said that operating the first Hajj flight on May 31 and regular Hajj flights from June 5 will be a difficult task.

HAAB leaders said the government has taken much time in announcing this year’s Hajj packages due to late response from the Saudi government. Besides, the religious affairs ministry extended the duration of Hajj registrations for pilgrims till May 22 which was supposed to be ended on May 18.

Consequently, the Hajj agencies haven’t got much time to complete all necessary formalities.

A source at the Biman Bangladesh Airlines has confirmed that the national flag carrier is yet to get its slot in Saudi Arabian airport and the Ministry of Religious Affairs is not informed about the exact amount of expenses of Hajjis in the Middle Eastern country.

HAAB already sent letters to postpone the flight schedule.

HAAB President M Shahadat Hossain Taslim said, “The whole process of finalising everything for Hajj is a huge task and we are still at the primary level of it. The Hajj registration process has just ended on Sunday.”

“Determination of munazzem, accommodation of pilgrims in Saudi Arabia and sending Moallem fees and other expenses are yet to be completed. I don’t know how regular Hajj flights will be operated before June 10 or 15,” he added. 

Earlier, the HAAB president shared a similar opinion with the Daily Sun before the announcement of this year’s Hajj package.

It is to be mentioned that after a hiatus of two years due to the coronavirus pandemic, some 57,585 Bangladeshis will be performing Hajj this year. Among them, 4,000 will be going through the government packages and 53,585 under private management.

Hajj, a mandatory ritual for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime, is expected to be held on July 8 or 9, subject to the sighting of the Moon.