First batch of Kashmir pilgrims ready for Haj

October 30th, 2008 - 2:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Srinagar, Oct 30 (IANS) The first batch of Haj pilgrims from Jammu and Kashmir are scheduled to leave for Saudi Arabia on a Srinagar-Jeddah flight later Thursday.”This year over 8,000 pilgrims from Jammu and Kashmir are going for the holiest Muslim pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. The first batch of 166 pilgrims is leaving today (Thursday) on a direct flight from here to Jeddah in the afternoon,” Abdul Rashid Mir, the state Haj officer, said here.

“Arrangements had been made for a single daily flight carrying pilgrims to Jeddah from here up to Nov 12,” Mir said.

“From Nov 13 to Nov 24, we shall operate two flights for the pilgrims daily from here,” Mir added.

“This year, the flight to Jeddah would not make a stopover at Sharjah as it did in the past. This would save over three hours of travel for the pilgrims,” Mir said.

He said that due to the delay in the receipt of passports and visas from the Saudi embassy in respect of some of the pilgrims, the departure schedule had to be redrawn by the authorities here.

“Those pilgrims whose passports are still awaited, but had been cleared for earlier flights to Jeddah, would now have to wait till we get their papers from the Saudi embassy,” the Haj officer said.

Arrangements of foreign exchange, customs clearance, sanitation, ablutions and wearing the ‘Ahram’ (Unstitched robe worn by the pilgrims before boarding the flight for Saudi Arabia) have been made at the local Haj House in Bemina city outskirts area here.

Home guard volunteers have been appointed to carry the luggage of the pilgrims this year as no attendant is allowed to proceed with the pilgrims from the Haj House to the airport.

“The pilgrims are being taken directly from the Haj House to the airport where they would board the flight,” Mir said.

The central government had on the requests by the state administration made an additional quota of 1,500 pilgrims available to Jammu and Kashmir to accommodate more pilgrims from here this year.

“Because of the additional quota allotted to us by the central Haj committee we are now able to send over 8,000 pilgrims for the holy pilgrimage this year,” the Haj officer said.

Kashmir Divisional Commissioner Masuad Samoon and other senior officers are present at the airport to oversee the arrangements made for the smooth departure of the pilgrims Thursday.

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