Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Wednesday received an application requesting it to intervene and order the Pakistan government to voice its concern against Saudi Arabia contracting out biometric verification of Haj and Umrah pilgrims to an “Indian firm”, the Dawn reported.
Under a week-old modification in Saudi’s Hajj and Umrah laws to make biometric verification mandatory for pilgrims, Hajj visitors from Pakistan would have to undergo the additional procedure in order to submit their applications for the relevant Umrah visa. One of the firms known to be given the contract of collection of fingerprint data from the Pakistani pilgrims, according to the Express Tribune, is a Dubai-based company, with an Indian national as one of its directors.
Dawn reported that the application submitted by one Nadeem A. Shaikh stated that “Pakistani citizens’ data in the hands of an Indian company is a matter of national security”. It also mentioned that Iran, India, Egypt and Bangladesh have already refused biometric verification of their pilgrims.
Mian Maqsood Ahmad, a spokesperson from Pakistan’s conservative Jamaat-i-Islami party, voiced his protest a few days ago, stating that “Pakistan has become the only country where biometric verification (of pilgrims) was required,” and urging the government to take the matter up with the Saudis.
As a Muslim country, Pakistan has a vast number of people, including in its remote hinterlands, who’d have to travel for and spend money on getting themselves verified. The logistical problems this would create has also led travel agents all over the country to join in the protests against the new visa law and to ask the government to intervene in the matter.
“If biometric verification is extremely important, the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) should step up to help the Saudi Authorities,” the application added.