ISLAMABAD:(APS)Feb 8,2017-Mishandling of Hajj affairs leads to the missing, confinement and even deaths of a number of pilgrims is one of the unnoticed issues. The apathy of the authorities towards this important issue has been a matter of grave concern to the kith and kin of the affected pilgrims. Non-cooperation of the concerned Saudi officials with their Pakistani counterparts has compounded and complicated the issue. The briefing of DG Hajj to the senate committee for religious affairs about missing of 11 Pakistani pilgrims and 3 others still behind the bars in Saudi Arabia, substantiate the fact of the poor state of affairs in this regard.
The list of the persons who have gone missing during the Hajj of 2016, also includes an 80 years old Haji Abdul Ghafoor Khan of Charsadda (CNIC No. 17101-2962811-3 and Passport No. NY4138111). Despite the lapse of About Six Months neither the Saudi nor the Pakistani authorities have been able to give any reassuring information to the heirs of the missing haji. The Octogenarian detained by Saudi Authorities on August 19, 2016, as a result of altercation with Saudi police personnel at Gate No.20 of Masjid-e-Nabavi ﷺ in Madina, has been missing for the last About Six Months. Reportedly, the matter was settled on the spot but the old man was handed over to an unknown person at the nearby hotel irresponsibly. Since then, his whereabouts has been a mystery which tantamount to the fact that the matter was far from resolved. The incident took place just on the second day of his arrival to Madina. The hapless family of this helpless old man is still clueless in utter disappointment and is in a state of mourning.
Missing of Abdul Gharfoor Khan is not a hidden fact. His story has already been highlighted by some of the leading newspapers of the land. A number of his fellow pilgrims have categorically confirmed his secret detention by Saudi Intelligence. His family is going through an agony and stress. The hectic struggle for his recovery has given them nothing except hopelessness. Imdad Ullah, who is working as an Executive Secretary at OGRA in the Cabinet Division, Islamabad, first sought help from the Religious Affairs Ministry to find his father. Assurance to them by the Federal Minister Sardar Muhammad Yousaf for handling the enigma has been proved a lip service so far. Contacts with Pakistan Foreign Office have also been a useless exercise.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Hajj Directorate Jeddah, Federal Minister for Religious affairs and officials of Consulate General of Pakistan Jeddah, do not bother to pick up the repeated telephonic calls of his family members for help. Numerous letters and emails to the President of Pakistan, Prime Minister, Chief Justice of Pakistan, and DG ISI have also been of no avail. Interestingly, the responsible Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony officials and consulate general of Pakistan, Jeddah termed it a normal phenomenon, an expression which amounts to making fun of the tragedy.
As there was no progress in locating the missing Haji, Imdad Ullah on October 13 wrote a letter to the Saudi ambassador in Islamabad urging him to help locate his father. He is still waiting to hear from the Saudis if they have any information about Haji Abdul Ghafoor. Requests of his relatives to Pakistan House, Madinah to provide an undertaking to the effect that the old man is not in the custody of Saudis, are not being acceded to. The questions asked by the senate from the Ministry of Religious Affairs regarding the illegal confinement of innocent Pakistani pilgrims by Saudi Intelligence Agency, are unanswered hitherto. The prevailing circumstances combined with the irresponsible attitude of Ministry of Hajj and Consulate General of Pakistan at Jeddah has pushed his family ahead to more despair and distress. The only glimmer of hope for the family in pain now lies in the Suo Moto Notice, if taken by the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
It is peculiar that a pilgrim had gone missing in August 2016 and more than five months later there is still no information about him. All this happened in the blessed and peaceful city of Medina in broad daylight. Pilgrims saw him when he had an argument with a Saudi cop and they are aware that subsequently the issue was amicably resolved. His family wants to know what happened next and who seized him and where was he taken away.
His old father was neither a smuggler nor a terrorist. His mysterious confinement by Saudi authorities is a thought-provoking issue for the champions of the Human Rights. His detention story repeatedly published in the newspapers should serve as a wake-up call to the champions of human rights. These thoughts were expressed to the media by Imdad Ullah Khyal son of the missing Abdul Ghafoor Khan. Pakistan has always stood by Saudi Arabia in time of trials and tribulations. The friendship and cooperation of these two Islamic countries are exemplary. Issue of Abdul Ghafoor Khan is not so tough to deal with effectively, if sincere steps are taken.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan has taken Suo-Moto notice in all such cases in the past where state institutions have shown utter disregard to their responsibility. In the case in question, the intervention of Supreme Court is the dire need of the hour for want of due role of Ministry of Hajj and Pakistani Consulate at Jeddah. This will not only help ground the reality for detection and ultimate release of the old Abdul Ghafoor Khan but could also be similarly beneficial to a number of other pilgrims missing or illegally languishing in the jails of Saudi Arabia. The family needs to know about his fate to put an end to its agony. The Prime Minister, President of Pakistan should also take a serious note.