120,000 Pak pilgrims disappear in Saudi Arabia

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Islamabad, Oct 31 (UNI) As many as 120,000 Pakistani pilgrims, who went to Saudi Arabia to perform 'Umrah', have disappeared, an official of the Ministry of Religious Affairs said.

Federal Secretary for Religious Affairs Wakil Ahmed Khan said he was contacted by the Saudi authorities who claimed that 121,000 people from Pakistan had disappeared in the Kingdom after performing 'Umrah' last year.

'Umrah' is a pilgrimage to Mecca performed by Muslims that can be undertaken at any time of the year.

Accusing the Saudi authorities of being directly responsible for the disappearance of such a large number of people, Mr Khan said he had no fresh figures or the timeframe in which such a large number of Pakistanis misused the 'Umrah' visas.

He said Saudi authorities issue such visas through their authorised agents and the Pakistan government has no role whatsoever in the exercise.

''The Government of Pakistan has no role whatsoever in this human trafficking scam, nor can we be held responsible. Those who disappeared in Saudi Arabia were directly sent by local agents of Saudi companies,'' Mr Khan was quoted by The News as saying.

The Federal Secretary claimed that no one had disappeared during the Haj, because it was directly handled by the Ministry.

A majority of those who overstay in Saudi Arabia perform petty jobs and almost all had to pay huge amounts to local agents.

Saudi Arabia in recent years deported tens of thousands of illegal Pakistani immigrants. Saudi companies have signed contracts with about 250 local agents who help people get 'Umrah' visas.

UNI

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