The trial court hearing the Hajj corruption case of 2010 on Friday rejected the acquittal plea of the former federal minister for religious affairs Hamid Saeed Kazmi, calling it premature.
Special Judge Central Mian Khalid Shabbir observed that the trial was not complete, therefore, the accused could not be acquitted at this stage. The court also observed that allegations against him were of serious nature and that his acquittal plea was premature. The court adjourned the hearing until May 30, noting that the accused would be indicted on that date.
Earlier on May 23, the trial court had reserved its judgment for Wednesday after Kazmi appeared before the court along with two other accused in the scam — former additional secretary to ministry of religious affairs Raja Aftabul Islam and former director-general Hajj Rao Shakeel.
Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Special Public Prosecutor Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali said that Kazmi should not be acquitted without facing trial. He argued that it was a suo motu case pending before the Supreme Court and requested the court to reject the acquittal plea of the accused.
Kazmi’s counsel, Sardar Nasir, contended before the court that the FIA did not have any evidence against his client. The counsel reminded the court that the witnesses cited by the investigative agency in the report had already said that Kazmi had no connection with any kind of corruption during the Hajj process.
Nasir further said that the former minister was accused of renting 87 buildings far away from the Kaaba at exorbitant prices to house the pilgrims, but Kazmi was not praised for renting 129 buildings for hajjis at market rates during the Hajj season.
Kazmi, Shakeel and Islam were accused of indulging in widespread corruption during the course of renting residential buildings for Pakistani pilgrims in Saudi Arabia and inflicting a loss of a billion rupees to the national exchequer. Most of the buildings rented by the Hajj administrators were five kilometres away from the Haram Sharif, while according to law the accommodation for Hajjis should not be more than two kilometres away.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 26th, 2012.