Pakistan begins direct Hajj flights from Quetta to Madinah

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan has started directed Hajj flights from Quetta to Madinah, Pakistan's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said on Sunday.–File photo

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan has started directed Hajj flights from Quetta to Madinah, Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said on Sunday.

In a first for the people of the most underprivileged Balochistan province, a mountainous desert region bordering Afghanistan and Iran, a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight (PK-747) landed at the new runway of the Quetta airport late Saturday night.

Balochistan is Pakistan’s largest but most underdeveloped province where pilgrims previously had to travel to Karachi to board direct Hajj flights.

A CAA spokesperson said in a statement on Sunday, “The same flight later directly departed for Madinah with 145 Hajj pilgrims. Prior to that, PK6133 and PK-6137 left for Madinah with 300 pilgrims.”

CAA says that direct flights could be made possible after recent upgrade of the 12,000-feet runway, which has now made it possible for wide-body aircraft like Boeing-777 to land at Quetta airport.

In January this year, Saudi Arabia restored Pakistan’s pre-pandemic Hajj quota of 179,210 pilgrims and scrapped the upper age limit of 65. As many as 80,000 Pakistani pilgrims are expected to perform Hajj under the government scheme this year. The rest will be facilitated by private tour operators.

According to the authorities, Pakistan began its Hajj flight operation on May 21 and it will continue until June 21. Pakistan’s religious affairs ministry said on Sunday that 40,781 Pakistani pilgrims had reached Saudi Arabia through 158 Hajj flights so far.

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Hajj is an obligatory Islamic ritual for adult Muslims who are physically and financially capable of performing it. It involves visits to the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah at least once in a lifetime and takes place in the last month of the lunar Islamic calendar called Dhu Al-Hijjah.

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