November 24, 2014 -
Islamabad Chamber of Commerce & Industry acting president Shakeel Munir has requested the help of the government of Pakistani to urge the Saudi Government to withdraw the biometrics system it is enforcing for Pakistani Umrah applicants, according to a report by Pakistan Today.
Munir feels that the biometrics system will result in “a lot of unnecessary difficulties for the Pakistanis travelling for Umrah”.
“The same condition was reportedly imposed by the Saudi government on the citizens of India, Bangladesh and Iran but the governments of these countries refused to accept it,” Munir told the Travel Agents Association of Pakistan during its visit to ICCI. “The Saudi government had to withdraw the condition.”
According to the delegation, the Saudi government has awarded a contract to an undisclosed company to process visas for Umrah – an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia — in Pakistan after the biometric system is introduced.
The ICCI is concerned that a single company would not be able to effectively process over 800,000 annual Umrah visa applications, which would result in a large number of Pakistanis not be able to proceed for Umrah.
The organization also emphasized that Pakistani authorities should ask the Saudi Embassy in Islamabad to reconsider this condition.
Munir said that many Pakistan residents go for Umrah every year and the adoption of a biometric system would create long queues as Pakistanis would all have to scan their thumb prints.
He added that while the Saudi government was perfectly within their rights to introduce a system for the visa seekers, it should not enforce the biometric system.
“If it was not possible for Saudi authorities to withdraw this condition, then the Suadi Embassy should install biometric machines at all international departure points of Pakistani airports to facilitate the Pakistanis travelling for Umrah,” Munir said.