The Haj Notes of Pakistan

Peter Symes

There are two main branches of Islam: Sunni and Shi’ah. According to Sunni teachings there are five pillars of Islam, one of which is the pilgrimage of each Muslim to Mecca at least once during their lifetime (assuming they have the health and the means to conduct the journey). Similarly, according to Shia’ah understanding there are ten religious practices, and one of the practices is the pilgrimage to Mecca. The pilgrimage performed by Muslims is called the ‘Haj’ and it is performed during the ‘Haj season’, which commences at the beginning of Shawwal, the tenth month of the Muslim calendar, and climaxes between the eighth and thirteenth days of Dhul-Hijjah, the twelfth month of the Muslim calendar. As the Muslim calendar is a lunar calendar, the Haj season changes each year under the western calendar, occurring eleven days earlier each year.

            For many years, the great number of people desiring to undertake the Haj has meant that the government of Saudi Arabia has had to limit the number of people who can proceed on the Haj in any year. To facilitate an orderly Haj, the government of Saudi Arabia allocates a quota of people from each country where pilgrims originate. The individual countries then allocate positions for the Haj according to various criteria.

            Muslims live in countries throughout the world, and when they arrive in Saudi Arabia they invariably do so with the currencies of many nations. The money brought to the Hedjaz by the conflux of pilgrims has generated a great deal of business for the Saudi Arabian money changers over many years. Looking to conduct as much business as possible during the short ‘high’ season, the money changers gather to the huge tent cities and hotels around the towns and cities visited by the pilgrims. While the exchange of currency between pilgrims and the Saudi money changers is a well-established institution, occasions have arisen where it was necessary to introduce controls. It is one of these occasions to which we now look.

            From the time that Pakistan gained its independence in 1947, following the division of India and Pakistan, any Pakistani notes exported from Pakistan could be freely converted into foreign exchange. This free conversion was possible due to the Pakistani government promising to convert Pakistani rupees into pounds sterling on presentation of their notes for payment.

            The free convertibility of the Pakistani rupee created opportunities for rupees to be smuggled out of Pakistan and later presented by foreign banks to the Pakistani authorities for payment in pounds sterling. These opportunities were exploited by gold smugglers. In India and Pakistan, gold has long been a medium of trade and a sign of wealth. However, it was illegal in both countries to import or export gold. This consequently encouraged criminals and adventurers in Pakistan to take Pakistani rupees to the Gulf states, purchase gold, and smuggle the precious metal back into Pakistan. Whilst many smugglers were caught, many succeeded. The Pakistani rupees that had been used to purchase gold in the Gulf states were returned through the international banking system and presented to the Pakistani authorities for payment in sterling. Pakistan thus found itself sponsoring the illegal importation of gold through the expenditure of its foreign reserves.

            In September 1949 the pound sterling was devalued, but Pakistan chose not to devalue its currency in line with the British standard. Aware that smuggling might increase, because of speculators taking advantage of the devaluation of the pound sterling, complete restrictions were placed on the export and import of Pakistani currency. The only exception to these restrictions was for currency taken to Saudi Arabia by Haj pilgrims. Pakistani pilgrims were permitted to take Pakistani currency, up to certain limits, to Saudi Arabia where it was exchanged for Saudi riyals and later returned to the Pakistani authorities by the Saudi Arabian banks. However, in the year following the pound’s devaluation, it was noticed that far more currency than could possibly have been taken by the pilgrims was repatriated from Saudi Arabia—even assuming each pilgrim took the maximum permissible amount. It was apparent that the restrictions put in place by the Pakistani government were being circumvented by smugglers taking Pakistani rupees to the Gulf states and having them returned via the legitimate channel of the Saudi Arabian banks.

            Realizing that they had to provide a solution to the problem of smuggling, as well as providing simple exchange facilities for Haj pilgrims, the government decided to issue special notes for the express use of the pilgrims. Although other means of exchange were considered, such as traveller’s cheques and bank drafts, the high level of illiteracy amongst the pilgrims and the additional costs that would be incurred through the need to purchase the items, swayed the government from these methods of exchange.

            The ordinance amending the State Bank Order to allow the issue of special notes, or ‘Haj notes’ as they became known, was made in May 1950. The first Haj note issued by the government was a 100-rupee note. The Haj note was prepared with the same design as the existing 100-rupee note, but the colour was changed from green to red and an over-print was applied to the front of the note, indicating the specific use of the notes. The overprint read (in English): ‘For Pilgrims From Pakistan For Use In Saudi Arabia and Iraq.’ The Haj notes were not legal tender in Pakistan, but they could be used in Saudi Arabia to purchase Saudi riyals and be remitted to Pakistan via the usual channel of the Saudi Arabian banks.

            The introduction of the 100-rupee Haj note was an outstanding success for the government. In 1949, the year before the introduction of the Haj note, Pakistani notes to the value of Rs. 28,045,308 were repatriated from Saudi Arabia. In 1950, following the introduction of the Haj notes, only Rs. 11,186,100 were repatriated. This indicated a great saving for the government and the notes also proved popular with the pilgrims. However, it was seen that there was a need for a lower denomination Haj note, as the sole availability of such a large denomination note as the 100-rupee note often caused some inconvenience. Consequently, a 10-rupee Haj note was introduced, with the note being designed on the pattern of the new 10-rupee note of the State Bank of Pakistan that was introduced on 1 September 1951. It is suspected that the 10-rupee Haj note was introduced at the same time as the new 10-rupee legal tender note, or shortly thereafter. The 10-rupee Haj note carried a slightly different overprint to the one used on the 100-rupee note, with the overprint reading (in English): ‘For Haj Pilgrims from Pakistan for use in Saudi Arabia only’.

            While Mecca is the destination for all Muslim pilgrims, there are a number of sites in Iraq that are considered holy by Shia’ah Muslims. Therefore, it has been the practice of Shia’ah Muslims to visit Iraq as part of their pilgrimage. Although the precise details of remitting Pakistani rupees from Iraq is unknown, it can be speculated that Pakistani rupees once enjoyed the same status in Iraq as they did in Saudi Arabia; as the first 100-rupee Haj note had indicated that their use was valid in ‘Saudi Arabia and Iraq’. It appears that by the time the 10-rupee note was introduced, the Government of Pakistan (or the State Bank of Pakistan) had decided to exclude Iraq as a destination to receive and remit Haj notes; as the new overprint indicates the notes were ‘for use in Saudi Arabia only’. Due to the limited number of surviving examples of this note, speculation can only be made as to whether later production runs of the 100-rupee notes always included the overprint that referred to Iraq, or whether it was replaced with an overprint similar to that which appeared on the 10-rupee notes.

            Haj notes continued to be issued throughout the 1950s, with the number issued each year being subject to great fluctuations, due to the number of pilgrims undertaking the Haj in any given year. In fact the government sometimes limited the number of pilgrims who could undertake the pilgrimage, in order to control the drain on foreign exchange. In 1958 the number of pilgrims from Pakistan was 17,000 and cost Pakistan US$6 million in foreign exchange. In 1959 the government announced that a limit of 9,200 pilgrims would be allowed to undertake the Haj, saving the country an estimated US$3 million.

            In the early 1950s, pilgrims travelling to Saudi Arabia on their Haj invariably did so by ship. In order to provide Haj notes to the pilgrims prior to their departure, the State Bank of Pakistan established booths at the ports of Karachi (West Pakistan) and Chittagong (East Pakistan). As times changed, air travel became an option for increasing numbers of pilgrims. The change in travel, and the need to keep track of the number of pilgrims and their expenditure, led to tighter controls on the costs incurred by pilgrims on their Haj. For many years it has been the custom for pilgrims to deposit all disbursements for their Haj with one of the commercial banks. The disbursements included the air-fare, the Haj fee charged by the Saudi Arabian government, and the pilgrim’s expenses in Saudi Arabia. The bank then supplied the pilgrims with their air tickets and their Haj notes to be used for daily expenses.

            During the period leading to these changes, and as international currency exchange throughout the world became more competitive, various options for Haj pilgrims were introduced, such as Saudi Arabian pilgrim receipts and travellers cheques. Saudi Arabia introduced their pilgrim receipts in 1953, with their use based on the same principles as the Haj notes. The Saudi Arabian pilgrim receipts were purchased by pilgrims through banks in the countries in which they lived, ensuring that official exchange rates were observed in the country where the receipts were purchased. In the case of Pakistan, it is probable that the pilgrim receipts were purchased by pilgrims at the booths operated by the State Bank of Pakistan at the ports of Karachi and Chittagong, prior to their embarkation on ships bound for the Hedjaz. As promissory notes, the pilgrim receipts could be exchanged at par for Saudi riyals in the Hedjaz, ensuring that pilgrims were not disadvantaged by poor exchange rates on their arrival in Saudi Arabia. However, the availability of Saudi Arabian pilgrim receipts in Pakistan appears to have been short lived. The Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency advised the Pakistani authorities of their inability to supply pilgrim receipts for the 1955 Haj season, and subsequent annual reports of the State Bank of Pakistan fail to mention any further issue of these receipts in Pakistan.

            While the use of Saudi Arabian pilgrim receipts was short-lived for Pakistani pilgrims, within a few years the use of traveller’s cheques began to increase as their use became more common and their acceptance in Saudi Arabia grew. The following table shows the value (in Pakistani rupees) of Haj notes, pilgrim receipts and traveller’s cheques issued to pilgrims bound for Saudi Arabia over a number of years. (This information has been garnered from the Annual Reports of the State Bank of Pakistan.)


Haj Notes

Pilgrim Receipts

Traveller’s Cheques













































































            There have been seven different Haj notes issued by Pakistan. Each note is the same design as the denomination that circulated in Pakistan at the time of their issue, except that the colours are different and each note carries an overprint. The first Haj note (No. R1) was, as stated earlier, prepared in the pattern of the 100-rupee note originally issued in October 1948. The only differences to the note on which it was patterned were the changes in colour, the use of a different signature, and the overprint indicating its specific purpose. The only signature recorded on the first Haj note is the Urdu signature of Ghulam Mohammed, Pakistan’s first Minister of Finance. (Ghulam Mohammed had signed the notes issued in Pakistan that replaced the inscribed Reserve Bank of India notes, but on those notes he had used a signature written in English.)

            It appears that the pattern of the first 100-rupee Haj note was employed for a number of years. Introduced in 1950, these notes seem to have been in use for over twenty-two years, as there is no existing example of any other 100-rupee Haj note until the introduction of the note that adopted the pattern of the 100-rupee note that was released in 1972. That there are so few surviving examples of the first 100-rupee note is in itself quite remarkable, with the first record of this note only recently appearing in the seventh edition of The Standard Catalog of World Paper Money (SCWPM) published in 1994. That no other example of this note had been recorded by a collector until then is quite amazing, considering the length of time that they were in use.

            There is of course the possibility that a Haj note in the pattern of the 100-rupee note issued in 1953 was used. This note was similar to the 1948 issue, but released under the authority of the ‘State Bank of Pakistan’ as opposed to the ‘Government of Pakistan’. The paucity of surviving examples of notes from this period must mean that there remains some doubt concerning the total number of patterns used for the 100-rupee Haj notes during the 1950s. Unfortunately, the Annual Reports of the State Bank of Pakistan do not refer to which pattern of note was used when they mention the issue of 100-rupee Haj notes over the years in question.

            With doubt lingering as to how many patterns were actually used for the early 100-rupee Haj notes, it is interesting to note that the 10-rupee Haj note (No. R2), which was first introduced in 1951 with the signature of Zahid Hussain, was still being used with the signature of Mahbubur Raschid in 1970. This would suggest that the two patterns originally introduced for the Haj notes in the early 1950s (i.e. the 10- and 100-rupee notes Nos. R1 & R2) were used for many years without change (apart from changes to the signatures), while the legal tender notes of Pakistan underwent a couple of changes in the same period.


100 Rupees

SCWPM number:

Pakistan No. R1

Pattern of:

Pakistan No. 7



First issued:



Ghulam Mohammed




10 Rupees

SCWPM number:

Pakistan No. R2

Pattern of:

Pakistan No. 13



First issued:



i. Zahid Hussain


ii. Shujaat Ali Hasnie


iii. Mahbubur Raschid

            The first change in the Haj notes appears to have been made in 1970 when the 10-rupee Haj note (No. R3) was issued in the pattern of the legal tender 10-rupee note that was introduced in November 1970. However, this note had a very short issue, as the civil war between East and West Pakistan dictated that new notes be issued so that the notes held by East Pakistan could be demonetized. As the legal tender notes were withdrawn and demonetized in 1972, so too were the new 10-rupee Haj notes, resulting in a very short life, and a consequent scarcity, of this note. The English overprint on this note remained unchanged from the previous issue.

            It is worth noting that, in the Standard Catalog of World Paper Money, this issue is described as an overprint on the legal tender issue No. 21. This is not the case, as Haj note No. R3 was circulating two years before the legal tender note No. 21 was issued. The simple sequence of issue of the similar 10-rupee notes is:

                        1970: legal tender note No. 16 (brown) and Haj note No. R3 (green)

                        1972: legal tender note No. 21 (green) and Haj note No. R4 (purple)

The similarity between these notes is because the series of notes issued after the civil war adopted the patterns of the notes circulating during the war—but changed their colours. For the 10-rupee note, the authorities decided to use the colours of the 1970 Haj note for the 1972 legal tender note. So, apart from the overprint, the 1972 10-rupee note looks exactly like the Haj note that preceded it. The confusion is exacerbated by the fact that Shakirullah Durrani signed Haj note No. R3 and the legal tender note No. 21. However, Haj note No. R3 was also signed by Mahbubur Raschid and his signature never featured on the legal tender note No. 21, although it certainly featured on legal tender note No. 16. So, Haj note No. R3, like all other Haj notes, can be seen to be based on the pattern of the legal tender note that circulated at the time it was originally issued—in this case, No. R3 was patterned on the legal tender note No. 16.


10 Rupees

SCWPM number:

Pakistan No. R3

Pattern of:

Pakistan No. 16




circa 1970/71


i. Mahbubur Raschid


ii. Shakirullah Durrani

            The civil war between East and West Pakistan ended in December 1971, with East Pakistan seceding and becoming the new nation of Bangladesh. Because the bank notes circulating in Bangladesh were a liability to the State Bank of Pakistan, the State Bank moved quickly, following East Pakistan’s secession, to introduce a new series of bank notes and to demonetize the notes of the previous series. This was largely completed by June 1972. As well as introducing a new series of legal tender notes, new 10- and 100-rupee Haj notes (R4 and R5) were introduced. The new Haj notes were designed on the patterns of the new 10- and 100-rupee notes but, as usual, they were different colours. (The similarities between the 10-rupee Haj notes of this and the previous issues are discussed above.)

            An innovation that appeared on the new Haj notes was the introduction of the Urdu text for ‘Haj Note’ as part of the overprint indicating the specific use of the note. The English overprint remained unchanged, and the overprints used on these notes were used on all future Haj notes.


10 Rupees

SCWPM number:

Pakistan No. R4

Pattern of:

Pakistan No. 21




Ghulam Ishaq Khan




100 Rupees

SCWPM number:

Pakistan No. R5

Pattern of:

Pakistan No. 23




Ghulam Ishaq Khan

            In the mid-1970s a new issue of bank notes was released by the State Bank of Pakistan. This was followed between 1975 and 1978 with the issue of a new 100-rupee Haj note (R6) in the pattern of the new 100-rupee note. Some years later a new 10-rupee Haj note (R7) was introduced in the pattern of the new 10-rupee note. The new series of bank notes introduced during the mid-1970s by the State Bank of Pakistan underwent some subtle changes in the ensuing years. Shortly after being introduced, the design of the notes was changed to include a line of Urdu text, just below ‘State Bank of Pakistan’, on the back of the notes. The line of Urdu text was later modified, meaning that there are three varieties of each denomination—notes without the line of text, notes with the original line of text, and notes with the modified line of text. The 100-rupee Haj note is known to exist only for the pattern of the first variety, without the line of Urdu text, although there are two signature varieties. The 10-rupee Haj note is known to exist in the pattern of the first and second varieties of the 10-rupee note, i.e. without the line of Urdu text and with the original line of Urdu text. However, it is probable that the variety without the line of Urdu text is a printing error, with an incorrect plate being used for a production run. Both varieties of the 10-rupee Haj note carry the same signature.


10 Rupees

SCWPM number:

Pakistan No. R6

Pattern of

a: Pakistan No. 29


b: Pakistan No. 34




A. G. N. Kazi




100 Rupees

SCWPM number:

Pakistan No. R7

Pattern of:

Pakistan No. 31




i. S. Osman Ali


ii. A. G. N. Kazi

            The first Haj notes (R1 and R2) were initially printed by Thomas de la Rue and Company in the United Kingdom, as were the notes on which they were patterned. However, by 1954 the ‘Pakistan Security Printing Corporation’ was printing all denominations of notes issued by the State Bank of Pakistan and the Government of Pakistan. It is therefore assumed that the Haj notes printed after this date, until 1963, were also printed by the Pakistan Security Printing Corporation. From December 1963 the State Bank began operating its own printing press and the Haj notes would then have been prepared at that facility.

            The use of Haj notes continued until 1994. Until this date, stocks of notes were used without the necessity of printing new notes with the signatures of the later Governors. It is believed, once the use of Haj Notes was discontinued, that most of the remaining stock of notes was destroyed. However, a large quantity of notes did find their way into the collector market following their sale to a bank note dealer by the State Bank of Pakistan.

Chart of Signatories

The following chart lists the known signatories of the Haj Notes. All Haj notes were signed by the Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan, except for the first Haj note (R1), which was signed by the Minister of Finance. The number of Ministers of Finance who signed this note is unknown, due to the limited sample of notes known to exist. Abdul Qadir, who was Governor of the State Bank from 20 July 1953 to 19 July 1960, appears not to have signed any Haj Notes.



Period of Office



Ghulam Mohammed

Minister of Finance 1947 to 1951



Zahid Hussain

June 1948 to

19 July 1953



Shujaat Ali Hasnie

20 July 1960 to

19 July 1967



Mahbubur Raschid

20 July 1967 to

30 June 1971



Shakirullah Durrani

1 July 1971 to

21 December 1971



Ghulam Ishaq Khan

22 December 1971 to

November 1975



S. Osman Ali

December 1975 to

14 July 1978



A. G. N. Kazi

15 July 1978 to

9 July 1986

My thanks go to Yahya Qureshi for assistance with the research for this article.

This article was completed in May 1999
© Peter Symes