PM Takes Notice Of Reports About Religious Affairs Ministry Taking 200 Officials On Hajj

PM Takes Notice Of Reports About Religious Affairs Ministry Taking 200 Officials On Hajj
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has ordered the Religious Affairs Ministry to explain its decision to send 200 ministry officials – including 35 from Religious Minister Mufti Abdul Shakoor's own office – for Hajj, reportedly on taxpayer money.

On Tuesday, The News International reported that 200 officials from the Ministry of Religious Affairs would be performing Hajj this year, as their names were on the finalized government list. 35 of the people on the list were from Shakoor's office alone, and included five drivers, four gunmen, one cook and 11 personal secretaries and assistants.

The minister himself would also be performing Hajj this year.

Secretary Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Aftab Akber Durrani, said about this decision, "The staff of the ministry goes every year. Staff like drivers and gunmen are tagged along for help in works such as carrying luggage, etc."

He explained that each year, the ministry is given a certain proportion of the budget through which they can take ministry officials and staff members along.

In addition to drivers, guards, and gunmen, the list also included cooks, tubewell workers and pump operators, to ensure the 'safety' of the pilgrims, as per the document.

According to the report, the trip for 200 individuals would cost "Rs 170 million" of the taxpayer's money.

News of this decision led to widespread criticism on social media, with many people tagging the prime minister asking him to take notice of this and explain how it aligned with the ongoing austerity measures and price hikes being implemented on citizens.

Later, the Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Digital Media Abubakar Umer said in a tweet that the prime minister has asked the Ministry of Religious Affairs to provide an explanation regarding this.

He explained that as per custom, some ministry officials and staff will be accompanying the pilgrims, however an explanation is being sought as the report seems to give a different impression.