If you accuse Pakistan’s minister for religious affairs of travelling abroad on the government’s dime, be prepared for a fiery sermon in which he will lay out every inch of his trip to Saudi Arabia to disprove you.
MNA Abdul Shakoor gave extensive details of how his trip to Saudi Arabia was funded on the floor of the house Friday. He gave details of how he ensure lower costs for Hajj, when it came to transport and stay for the pilgrims. And his ire was directed at former prime minister Imran Khan over the cost of Hajj.
“You are closing off the doors of Madina to people,” he said, adding that there were discrepancies in the prices quoted. “I will bring Hajj down to below Rs700,000. Saudi Arabia announced for the whole world, that it would be over 9,000 riyals. If there was a PTI government today then Hajj would cost Rs1.1 million! But I kept at it and today I give you the good news… that inshaAllah it will be lower than Rs650,000.”
Shakoor went on to say that he would expose the people who had made Hajj expensive. And then in tones laced with sarcasm, he said, “They say ‘Abdul Shakoor went on a trip. He went here and there’. Let me tell you, I am not someone who goes galivanting around. I do not go on holidays.”
There was a lighter moment when his use of a word that sounded like ‘maula’ caught the Speaker’s attention. “Allah opens the path for me,” said Minister He then quoted from the Holy Quran but the Speaker interrupted him. “Please expunge the word maula,” the Speaker said.
“Which word,” Shakoor asked. People murmured ‘maula’ in response. “Maula is a dangerous word?” Shakoor asked everyone. “Which one?” he asked again. There was laughter. “Maula,” they replied.
“Maula is a dangerous word?” he repeated himself, in disbelief. But apparently it was a moment of confusion over his pronunciation.
The minister said that he would work towards cheaper Umrah and had not forgotten Pakistan’s non-Muslims. “I am their minister too,” he said. He railed against Ahmadis during his speech, while vociferously proclaiming his love for the Holy Prophet (PBUH). We will hopefully spread tabligh, he said.
He thanked Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif for working with him on trying to ensure Hajj is affordable.