ISLAMABAD: While accepting the plea of the federal government the Supreme Court on Monday directed the restoration of the Hajj Policy 2014 and declared as null and void the judgement of the Lahore High Court (LHC) regarding the allocation of a quota of 15,000 pilgrims to the private Hajj tour operators.
A two-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Nasirul Mulk heard the appeal plea filed by the federal government, and accepting it the court ordered the restoration of the Hajj Policy 2014. Additional Attorney General Atiq Shah appeared before the top court and pleaded that if the LHC judgement is not suspended by the top court then the Hajj operation and the pilgrims would suffer. He told the court that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has expressed its satisfaction over the Hajj Policy 2014.
The private operators were to be provided an additional quota of 15,000 pilgrims due to last year’s decrease, which was declared illegal by the LHC. The apex court annulled the LHC decision and allowed the additional quota for private tour operators. The apex court was informed that due to the ongoing extension of Haram Sharif the Saudi government had slashed the pilgrims’ quota for Pakistan, and consequently the government slashed the private tour operators’ quota to 15,000 pilgrims. But after the formulation of Hajj Policy 2014 the government and the tour operators’ quota was equalised to 50 percent. The government restored the quota allocated for private tour operators, but the step taken by the federal government was declared illegal by the LHC, Atiq Shah stated before the top court.
After hearing the arguments the apex court struck down the LHC judgement and directed the restoration of the Hajj Policy of 2014. Earlier, LHC Justice Khalid Mehmood Khan had declared the 15,000-pilgrim quota and Hajj policy illegal. The LHC judgement was challenged by the federal government and the Hajj Organisers Association. About thirty private tour operators challenged the Hajj quotas in the court. The LHC had on July 15 declared the Hajj Policy 2014 illegal to the extent of grant of quota of 15,000 pilgrims to the private Haj tour operators. During the course of proceedings, DAG Attiq Shah told the court that the quota for Pakistani pilgrims in 2013 was 179,210.
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