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Ex-Minister: Nearly 300 Pakistanis Killed in Hajj Stampede in Mecca

29 September 2015 23:19



Hamed Saeed Kazzemi, Former Pakistani minister of religious affairs, underlined that the number of his country’s pilgrims killed in the Hajj stampede in Mina, Mecca, is much higher than Islamabad has announced.

“According to credible sources nearly 300 Pakistani pilgrims have been killed in the Mina incident, but Pakistan’s government and media lied to the people when they announced that 40 Pakistanis have been killed,” Kazzemi told FNA on Tuesday.

He called on the Pakistani government to declare the true number of the victims and avoid secrecy.

“It is a mistake to conceal the true death toll for the sake of relations with Saudi Arabia because such an attempt is equal to committing treason,” Kazzemi added.

Kazzemi said that the wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen are more important to the Saudi regime than Hajj pilgrimage.

A stampede during one of the last rituals of the Hajj season killed more than 4,173 people and left 2,000 wounded.

The stampede occurred during the ritual known as “stoning the devil” in the tent city of Mina, about two miles from Mecca.

Pakistan is among those nations who have lost the largest number of nationals in the Thursday stampede, and Islamabad’s leniency towards Saudi Arabia over the Mina crush has angered the Pakistani people.

Reports from Pakistani media and journalists on Monday revealed that the country’s intelligence body, ISI, has issued serious warnings to all the country’s media outlets to avoid conducting interviews with pilgrims and their families about the lethal incidents in Mecca this year or releasing figures of those who have lost their lives or gone missing in the stampede.

A senior Pakistani religious leader on Monday called on Islamabad to declare the real number of the Hajj pilgrims killed during the Hajj stampede in Mina.

“The secrecy concerning the true number of victims of Mina incident not only does not solve anything, but is also make the situation more complicated; therefore the Pakistani government should announce the exact number of Pakistani pilgrims killed in Hajj rituals in Mina,” Sahibzada Abu-al-Khair Muhammad Zubair, President of Pakistan’s Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan (JUP), told FNA.

A Pakistani citizen has also filed a complaint against the Islamabad government for not declaring true figures of the Pakistani nationals who have died or gone missing in the Thursday stampede in Mina near Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

Mahmoud Akhtar Naghavi has sued 14 senior Pakistani officials, including prime minister and religious affairs minister, for not providing accurate information on the number of the Pakistanis killed in Mina, the Urdu-language Express newspaper reported on Monday.

“The (Pakistani) government is duty-bound to publish a list of the names and the real number of the victims and the missing Hajj pilgrims in order to remove concerns among the families of the pilgrims,” the daily quoted Naghavi as saying.

Muhammad Zubair voiced regret over the prevailing situation in Mecca, and said, “This is very regretting that the Hajj pilgrims lost their lives for the presence of a Saudi royal family member; if this is true. The Saudi royal family is assassin of the Hajj pilgrims.”

Sources revealed on Thursday that the convoy of Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud caused panic among millions of pilgrims and started the stampede.

“The large convoy of Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, the King’s son and deputy crown prince, that was escorted by over 3,50 security forces, including 200 army men and 150 policemen, sped up the road to go through the pilgrims that were moving towards the site of the ‘Stoning the Devil’ ritual, causing panic among millions of pilgrims who were on the move from the opposite direction and caused the stampede,” several Arab papers, including the Arabic language al-Dyar newspaper, disclosed on Thursday evening.

“That’s why the ruler of Mecca has distanced himself from the case, stressing that the issue should be studied and decided by the King,” it added.

Eye witnesses said earlier that the Saudi police and security forces had closed two of the few roads to the stone column that were to be used by millions of pilgrims to do the ‘Stoning the Devil’ ritual today.

Saeed Ohadi, the head of Iran’s Hajj organization, accused Saudi Arabia of safety errors and mismanagement.

He said for “unknown reasons” the paths had been closed off near the scene of the symbolic stoning of the devil ritual where the accident later took place.

“This caused this tragic incident,” he told the Iranian state television.

Eyewitness accounts said that even after incident the Saudi security and military forces closed all paths leading to the scene and the bodies of pilgrims have piled up on each other.

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