ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Interfaith Harmony and the Middle East, Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi on Monday welcomed Saudi Arabia’s decision to resume the Umrah pilgrimage for international visitors, halted earlier due to the coronavirus pandemic. According to Saudi media, the Kingdom has decided to resume International Umrah from the first of the Islamic month of Muharram, likely to fall on August 10. “We welcome the decision to resume Umrah for foreign pilgrims and whatever mechanism Saudi government will devise. Pakistan will follow that,” Ashrafi said in an interview with Arab News. “Pakistani ministry of religious affairs and Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah have contacts and if there will be any issues, both will coordinate on that.” Media reports suggested COVID-19 vaccinations would be mandatory for all pilgrims. Hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis would visit Saudi Arabia every year, mainly for Umrah and Hajj, before the COVID-19 pandemic. Saudi Arabia closed its borders last February to foreign Umrah pilgrims, and in March stopped its own citizens and residents from taking part in Umrah. Last July, it allowed a limited number of domestic pilgrims to perform the Hajj. This year too, Saudi Arabia restricted the annual Hajj pilgrimage to its own citizens and residents for the second year running in response to the coronavirus pandemic.