ISLAMABAD: Three weeks after the deadly Mina stampede in Saudi Arabia, the government has not even started the process for paying the monetary compensation promised to the families of the martyred pilgrims.
At least 99 Pakistani pilgrims have been confirmed to have died in the Mina stampede, now said to be the deadliest incident in the history of the annual pilgrimage in Makkah. While the overall death toll has been reported to be over 1,600, Saudi authorities insist only 769 people died in the tragedy on September 24.
Soon after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced a compensation package for the affected families with Rs500,000 promised for the heirs of each of the dead pilgrim and Rs200,000 for the injured people. The PM’s focal person on Mina incident announced the aid package in a press conference on September 28.
Seventeen days later, nothing has been done. The government does not know the exact number of deceased pilgrims let alone contact the heirs of the missing pilgrims.
The bereaved families are now complaining that no one from the government has approached them for the payment of compensation money as announced by Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry.
Karachi’s Azharuddin, whose cousin Zareen Naseem is missing while another family member died in the stampede, said his family has lost all hope in the government.
Azharuddin said the government was giving false hopes and creating mistrust among the families which were already suffering.
Dr Nayla, whose husband Dr Shahzeb lost his life in the tragic mishap, said the government should fulfill its promise. “At least be kind to people who are passing through severe pain,” she advised the authorities.
Syed Shahzad Azhar, who lost his younger brother while his mother Yasmeen Bibi is still missing, lamented that no government official had approached the family since the incident took place on September 24. “The government has not done anything yet to locate my mother,” he complained.
Expressing concerns over the unsatisfactory performance of the religious affairs ministry, Pakistan Peoples Party Senator Farhatullah Babar said the government was not making any serious efforts to locate the missing Pakistani pilgrims.
“The government, if it wants, can easily locate the missing ones by conducting the DNA tests of family members in Pakistan and matching them with the bodies or those hospitalised in Saudi Arabia,” the Opposition lawmaker suggested.
MNA Chaudhry, the authority on Mina incident, said the government would soon start the process of paying compensation to the bereaved families. “It is a lengthy process and we will start the verification process soon,” he said.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Federal Religious Affairs Minister Sardar Muhammad Yousaf said the process would start only after the verification of families, whose members died or were injured in Mina.
He said that 70 of the 99 pilgrims said to have died were confirmed by their relatives. Another 18 are still reportedly missing.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 16th, 2015.