RIYADH/JEDDAH: The first batch of Hajis from Pakistan, Bangladesh, South Africa and India arrived at Jeddah and Madinah airports on Wednesday and Thursday. 

The Bangladeshi group of 401 Hajis, out of the expected 101,758 pilgrims, arrived in Jeddah on Thursday, while the Indian batch with 340 pilgrims of an anticipated 136,000 faithful arrived in Madinah. 

The first flight carrying 328 Pakistani Hajis reached Madinah on Thursday. It was followed by another private airline’s jet with 320 pilgrims Thursday. They all were welcomed by the Pakistani Haj mission and Saudi officials.

At the Haj Terminal in Jeddah, the Bangladeshi pilgrims were received by Abdullah Muhammad Marghalani, director general of Haj in Jeddah, Mohammed Shahidul Karim, Bangladeshi consul general, and consulate officials. 

The pilgrims were presented with gift packets containing prayer mats, flower bouquets and sweets. 

Karim said the first batch comprised Hajis sent by the Bangladeshi government. 

In Madinah, the first group of 340 Indian Hajis arrived early Thursday. They were received by V.K. Singh, visiting state minister of external affairs, Ambassador Ahmad Javed, Consul General Mohammed Noor Rahman Sheikh and Haj Consul Shahid Alam. 

Sheikh said the pilgrims are being ferried from various Indian cities by Air India, Saudia, Flynas and SpiceJet. 

On Wednesday, the first batch of 85 pilgrims from South Africa arrived in Jeddah. They were received by Shoayb Casoo, South African consul general, and Saudi officials.

Casoo said 2,000 Hajis will arrive.

This year, 143,000 Pakistani pilgrims will perform Haj — half of them  under the government’s scheme and the rest through private tour operators. 

This year PIA is operating flights from 10 cities in Pakistan — Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta, Faisalabad, Sialkot, Sukkur, Multan and Rahim Yar Khan.

A total of 40,000 Pakistani pilgrims will arrive in Madinah, and the rest will come to Jeddah. The Pakistani mission has hired 140 buildings to accommodate their pilgrims in Makkah, said Yousaffani. A medical mission with 450 doctors, and 1,000 guides and helpers is available to help pilgrims.

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