The Lahore High Court on Friday, after hearing arguments from tour operators, blocked the Ministry of Religious Affairs and tour operators from receiving any applications for Haj.
On May 2, as many as 21 private tour operators had filed a petition claiming unjust distribution of Pakistan’s Haj quota. LHC Chief Justice, Umar Ata Bandial had subsequently issued a stay order against allocation of Haj quota in violation of Haj policy 2012. However, the ministry issued the quota to tour operators in back dates, violating the rules.
The petitioners had contended that this act of the ministry was based on mala fide intent and urged the court to issue a stay order. The court, subsequently, stayed the allocation of Haj quota among previously registered Haj group organisers (HGOs) and sought a detailed reply from the ministry.
Chief Justice Bandial fixed May 9 as the date of the hearing.
The petitioners, through their counsel Muhammad Azhar Siddique, argued that due to an unjust distribution of Haj quota to private tour operators, it had become impossible for the common man to bear Haj expenses. They said that the Haj policy 2012 has been announced and a plan hatched to dish out quota arbitrarily, rather than through a transparent system.
The petitioners contended, that as per the precedent set through a Supreme Court order on July 7, 2011, the government was asked to observe transparency in formulating the Haj policy for 2012.
Siddique said that last year the cabinet had approved the Haj policy on April 15 and the same practice was repeated this year so that the Ministry of Religious Affairs could make the plea that quota had already been distributed and it would be highly improper to disturb the Haj policy at this belated stage.
They said last year the ministry and 721 tour operators had pleaded that money had been received from pilgrims and their lists sent to Saudi Arabia. The petitioners stated that the ministry was again giving quota to these tour operators and the door had been closed for new operators.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 5th, 2012.
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