Pakistanis, Indians seek govt help to find missing pilgrims
Prominent Pakistanis and Indians, who performed hajj as representatives of their countries, urged the Saudi authorities on Wednesday to speed up the process of locating and identifying missing and dead pilgrims.
Dozens of pilgrims from Pakistan and India and other countries remain unaccounted, seven days after the stampede in Mina claimed 769 lives, reports the Arab News.
Harried relatives, in the Kingdom and abroad, have taken to social, broadcast and print media to highlight their plight and desperation.
Pakistan’s Religious Affairs Minister Sardar Muhammad Yousaf met hajj Minister Bandar Hajjar in Jeddah on Wednesday and conveyed the grievances and concerns of the families of those who were injured and particularly of those who are missing.
The minister urged Hajjar to provide information about the martyrs and the injured pilgrims from Pakistan.
“The families of those who are missing are worried about the whereabouts of their loved ones,” Yousaf told Hajjar. Pakistan has identified 46 dead and eight injured. Forty-two Pakistanis remain missing, including three members of the Flynas crew.
Pakistani Ambassador Manzoor ul Haq and Consul General Aftab Ahmad Khokher also attended the meeting.
“The minister has agreed to appoint a focal person to liaise with the consulates on the issue of missing pilgrims,” Khokher told Arab News.
Hajjar said the Saudi government shared the concerns of the families of the injured, missing and unidentified pilgrims.
He promised that the government was making every effort to provide the best treatment for the injured.
“All efforts are and will be made to address the problems you have highlighted,” Hajjar told the Pakistani minister.
At a press conference at the Indian Consulate in Jeddah on Wednesday, Mehbooba Mufti, leader of the Indian Haj delegation, urged the Saudi leadership to institute a mechanism to locate the missing pilgrims.
“The families of the missing people are in distress,” she said. “With each passing day, their anxiety worsens.”
She said 46 Indian pilgrims have so far been identified from among the dead. Sixty-two are among the injured. “Another 82 Indians are missing,” she said.
“They include 65 pilgrims who had come from India through the Haj Committee and private tour operators and 17 iqama-holding Indians.”
She praised Saudi Arabia for providing excellent health care facilities to the injured pilgrims. “They are taking good care of them,” she said.
Mufti, who is a popular politician from Kashmir, said she had been coming to the Kingdom since 1995 as part of Haj delegations.
“I must say that Saudi Arabia has done a lot in terms of adding, expanding and improving the facilities at the holy sites,” she said. “They deserve all praise, especially for the introduction of train services.”
She said there was always room for improvement and that there was every reason to believe that the Saudi government was fully aware of areas that need attention.
“But the overall arrangements for our pilgrims, both in Makkah and Madinah, have been excellent,” she said.
“Organizing such a mammoth congregation at Haj, year after year, is nothing short of a miracle for the Saudis,” said Mufti.
She said the two tragedies — the crane crush in Makkah and the stampede in Mina — have taken away some of the joy of those who performed Haj this year.
“Personally, I had a very good experience being in Makkah and Madinah,” she said. “On the plains of Arafat at the peak of Haj, I prayed for peace, not just for Kashmiris, but for the entire world,” she said.
She thanked Consul General B.S. Mubarak, Deputy Consul General Noor Rehman Sheikh and their team for being on their toes during the two crises. “They did a commendable job,” she added.