Islamabad: Former caretaker religious affairs minister has announced that this year’s Hajj assistants will be selected through the National Testing Service (NTS) exam for the first time in the country’s history.

Traditionally, Pakistan selects hundreds of assistants and doctors to support local pilgrims during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. However, this year marks a significant departure from the norm, as aspiring assistants underwent the NTS exam on Sunday as part of the selection process.

Minister of Religious Affairs Aneeq Ahmed emphasized the importance of transparency in the selection process, stating, “An important work is starting today. The selection of Hajj assistants is being done for the first time through the National Testing Service.”

This move aims to ensure fairness and meritocracy in the selection of individuals who will accompany and assist pilgrims during the sacred journey. Out of the 625 individuals to be sent to Saudi Arabia to facilitate pilgrims this year, 540 will be doctors.

“The selection is being done through NTS for the first time in history to ensure transparency,” Former Minister Aneeq Ahmed affirmed. He also highlighted the significance of the written test in assessing the suitability of candidates for the demanding task of assisting pilgrims during Hajj.

This development comes after Pakistan disclosed the results of a draw for Hajj 2024 in December, with over 63,000 applicants selected for the pilgrimage under the government scheme. The remaining candidates will apply through private tour operators.

Read more: Can females perform Hajj without Mehram? Saudi Arabia explains dispute

The introduction of the NTS exam for selecting Hajj assistants marks a significant step towards enhancing transparency and meritocracy in the process, ensuring that the best-suited individuals are chosen to assist pilgrims during this sacred journey.

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