Thursday, 21 October 2010

Minorities Minister Mohammad Ahmadullah in trouble in Saudi Arabia

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 21: Minorities Welfare Minister Mohammad Ahmadullah had to face embarrassment in the Saudi Arabian port city of Jeddah after Saudi immigration authorities stopped him for questioning just before he was to board a flight to Hyderabad, along with his wife and two sons.

The minister went to Saudi Arabia last week on an "official" trip to oversee arrangements for the pilgrims from Andhra Pradesh in the ensuing Haj next month. Ahmadullah went on the Haj visa, which makes him mandatory to stay there till the annual pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca is over. This year Haj falls in the last week of November. Early exit of Haj visa pilgrims is not allowed under Saudi laws.

But as the minister was returning to India without performing the Haj, the immigration authorities grew suspicious and questioned him. Ahmadullah then sought the help of the consul-general of India in Jeddah. The minister and his family was spared from an imminent detention on the assurance extended by the consul-general officials. Later, the Union Ministry of External Affairs contacted the Saudi Haj ministry to virtually bail out the minister. The Indian authorities told their Saudi counterparts that the minister had to attend to some unavoidable task back home in India to enable him to fly to Hyderabad.

Ahmadullah, who apparently wanted to perform Umrah with his family members opted for the Haj visa as the Saudi government had stopped issuing visas for Umrah. Performing Umrah on the Haj visa and returning home before completing the Haj pilgrimage is a violation of Saudi law. Moreover, since the minister has opted for the Haj visa, he got the benefit of Haj subsidy. Umrah pilgrims do not get subsidy.

Using his political clout the minister obtained the Haj visa for himself and his family, thus denying Haj for four other genuine applicants. The State has a fixed quota for Haj and the visas are issued based on the draw of lots. Of the 27,800 people who had applied for Haj, a little over 6,000 could make it for the Haj. The Minister Haj visa got wasted as he returned without performing the pilgrimage. In the process he denied four others of the rare religious opportunity.

Ahmadullah denied having faced any embarrassment and justified his visit to Saudi Arabia on the Haj visa. "No one has stopped me. Right now I am in airport and will reach Hyderabad tomorrow," he said denying reports of his detention as baseless.

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