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Hajj rituals for this year ended without any major glitches

Monday, November 30, 2009 01:05:53 PM, Staff Reporter

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Malegaon: Over 2.5 Million pilgrims from around the globe performed the Hajj this year as all the rituals associated with the annual worship ended peacefully and without any major hiccup.


"This year’s Haj was successful and free of any major accident", said Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, who is the chairman of the Central Haj Committee while addressing a press conference


He said 1.6 million pilgrims came from outside, 2.52 million Hajis threw stones at the Jamrat and the number of illegal pilgrims touched 753,000.


“The performance of Haj would have been much easier had it not been for the large number of illegal pilgrims,” he said.


Prince Khaled stressed that the policy of enforcing Haj permit requirements would be strictly observed in the future and warned domestic pilgrims against using the services of illegal Haj tour operators.


He also said stricter actions would be taken to prevent the phenomenon of squatting and sleeping under bridges.


“We want the pilgrims to come to Saudi Arabia in dignity and respect and to go back home also with dignity and respect. Serving the guests of God is an honor in which we take great pride,” he said.


Prince Khaled urged Hajis to abide by the Kingdom’s rules and regulations and warned that any violation or illegal conduct will be sternly dealt with. “We will not tolerate any action that might undermine the sanctity of the pilgrimage or mar this great gathering of Muslims,” he said.


Prince Khaled said the shuttle service for pilgrims, taking 300,000 every hour, the 5-level Jamrat Bridge, which cost more than SR4.4 billion, and the expansion of the Masaa area (where pilgrims do Saie between Safa and Marwah), all contributed to an accident-free Haj.


Banning of vehicles with a capacity less than 25 passengers from entering Makkah and the completion of the Haj terminals at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, which now enables pilgrims to leave for Makkah or Madinah one hour after their arrival, also helped in ensuring smooth Haj, the prince said.


Prince Khaled spoke at length about the development projects currently under way in Makkah and the holy sites to further facilitate the performance of Haj.


He said they included, among others; the monorail which will operate at 37 percent of its capacity next year and full capacity the year after; King Abdullah’s expansion of the Grand Mosque which will be completed in the coming years and the development of the central area around the Haram.


The prince said the holy sites monorail, costing SR6.7 billion, will be linked to the project of the Two Holy Mosques’ train, on which work has already started, to provide a network of trains in Makkah, Madinah, Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah.


He noted that the number of service cars in the holy sites reached more than 18,000 and this is a large number that should be reduced in the following years.


Prince Khaled thanked all government and private establishments that worked during Haj and said massive cleaning operations is now under way in the holy sites.


With the Haj season practically ended, following the third day of stoning ritual, most of the pilgrims left Mina. However, some pilgrims stayed back in the tent city to repeat the ritual for the fourth day.


Barring a few minor incidents at several points in Jamrat area Sunday’s stoning ritual passed off peacefully. Since most of the pilgrims leave Mina after the third day of stoning, they were in a hurry to perform this rite and leave quickly.


Chaotic scenes were seen throughout the day when security forces insisted that pilgrims leave their bags behind before proceeding to perform the stoning ritual. Some pilgrims, however, refused to listen. They tried in vain to hold on to their belongings.


“All my documents are in my bag. How can I just leave it here? How am I going to find my bag again?” said Shabana Iqbal, a South Asian pilgrim who refused to move on without her luggage.


Security forces explained to her that the rules had been made for her safety and that of all other pilgrims. “Perform the stoning and then come back to get your baggage. Nobody is going to take it,” they said.


Abdul Wahab Al-Shamri, a police officer admitted that pilgrims were frustrated. “But we have very strict instructions not to allow any baggage onto the platform.”


At the smaller Jamrat a National Guard officer fell down and was trampled by the crowd. Security men rushed to his rescue and he was shifted to an ambulance.


The third and the most crucial day of the stoning passed peacefully in general. “Everything went according to plan and we have had no untoward incident at the Jamrat,” said an Interior Ministry spokesman.


“The arrangements were excellent and great care was taken to avoid the massing of pilgrims on the Jamrat Bridge which has been a scene of tragedy on numerous occasions in the past,” an Interior Ministry statement added.


Helicopters hovered constantly overhead to monitor the huge crowds; they were assisted by hundreds of high-tech cameras, all connected to a control room run by security authorities.


Indian and Pakistani Haj missions described Sunday’s stoning ritual as extraordinarily smooth. They welcomed the security crackdown on the carrying of luggage to Jamrat.


Pakistan’s Director of Haj, Behrullah Hazarvi, said the arrangements were “excellent.”


“I thank Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah on behalf of the government of Pakistan, for ensuring best available services to the guests of Allah. Most of our pilgrims followed the Jamrat time schedule and had no difficulties,” Hazarvi said.

 (With inputs from Atab News)







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