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Published in the 1-15 Feb 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

35-member goodwill delegation leaves for Haj

New Delhi: Prime minister Manmohan Singh approved a 35-member goodwill delegation for Haj on January 12 on government expenses. The delegation left for Haj on January 16 morning from Delhi and will be returning on February 3. The delegation is led by Union minister for urban development, Ghulam Nabi Azad.

The erstwhile NDA government during its 6-year rule never sent more than one-and-a-half dozen people in goodwill delegations citing financial reasons. According to the government sources, representatives of all those states have been included in the delegation whose members on earlier occasions could not be included in the delegation. The delegation comprises MPs and MLAs of different political parties, social and religious leaders and common people among whom include Rasoolan Bibi, the widow of Captain Abul Hameed.

After PMs approval, external affairs minister Natwar Singh gave a lunch party to the delegation members at Andhra Pradesh House here on January 12. The delegation members utilised the occasion by introducing to each other. The delegation includes Shafiqur Rahman Barq, Samajwadi Party MP; Akhtar Rizvi, former MP; Haroon Rashid, MP; Mahbooba Mufti, MP; Anwar Husain, MP; Qadir Jauharbhai from Bohra community; Peerzada Siraj Nizami; Abul Salam, an MLA from Manipur; Dr Alia Zuberi, Himachal Pradesh; Sajjad Mirza, a journalist from Himachal Pradesh; Anees Durrani, former chairman of Delhi Haj Committee; Safdar Khan, Javed Ansari, Zafar Jung, Naved Hamid, Abdur Rashid, Dr Sadiq Ali and Rasoolan Bibi among others.

There are many persons in the Haj goodwill delegation who have gone for Haj several times on government expenses on earlier occasions. Some voluntary organisations claiming to be involved in looking after the prospective Hajis have criticised their inclusion in the delegation and demanded that in future only those persons should be included in the delegation who have so for not gone for Hajj.

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