Ordeal of 325 stranded Pakistani pilgrims ends

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Saudi Gazette

JEDDAH —
The ordeal of hundreds of Pakistani pilgrims, who came here through a private carrier and have been stranded in the holy city of Madinah after Haj, come to an end as Pakistani authorities facilitated their return on humanitarian grounds.

The officials rushed to the holy city of Madinah after an outcry by the pilgrims, who were shocked to learn that the flight that was scheduled to take them back home was not available as authorities had refused to renew the mandatory license for the airlines to function.

It resulted in halting the post-Haj flight operation of the private carrier to take back pilgrims from Jeddah and Madinah. The pilgrims were left stranded as the private carrier failed to comply with civil aviation rules of Pakistan, according to officials.

All stranded passengers flew Shaheen Air International (SAI), Pakistan’s first private airlines, and the pilgrims came through a private agency.

“After knowing that pilgrims were stranded, we rushed to Madinah and discussed the matter with all stake-holders. Finally pilgrims were allowed to return to Pakistan by the same carrier – Shaheen Air International,” Dr. Sajid Yousfani, director general of Pakistan Haj Mission, who was Madinah to address the issue, told Saudi Gazette.

The stranded pilgrims were moved to hotels and alternative flights have been arranged to fly them back to Karachi, he added.

A batch of 325 pilgrims were scheduled to fly back from Madinah’s Prince Muhammad Bin Abdul Aziz International Airport to Karachi on Friday. However, they were standard at the airport as the carrier failed to renew its mandatory license with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in Pakistan that allows continuation of its operations.

The license — which is renewed on a quarterly basis — expired on Aug. 30, 2018, read a statement issued by CAA. It added that "there is no licensed aircraft available on the airline's inventory.”

Saudi Arabia allows only airlines that have own aircraft to fly to and in from Kingdom.

In the past also, the Kingdom denied Shaheen aircraft to land as the airlines was using an aircraft that taken on lease from a foreign carrier.

According to sources some 3,330 pilgrims flew to the Kingdom aboard flights operated by Shaheen Airlines.


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