The Lahore High Court on Wednesday directed the Ministry of Religious Affairs to put up on its website the names of the Hajj operators who were tax defaulters.
Hearing several contempt of court petitions against the ministry for ‘illegal allocation’ of Hajj quotas, Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial remarked that the ministry authorities had not fulfilled their responsibilities. He regretted that the government’s inefficiency had forced the courts to do the government’s job.
When proceedings started on Wednesday, a representative of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) submitted a report about tour operators who are defaulters. The report revealed that 41 operators had not submitted income tax returns while 136 had submitted them after the due date.
It identified three operators as defaulters listed by the State Bank of Pakistan. Another 19 had not obtained mandatory clearance certificates from the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan.
Counsel for the ministry told the court that Hajj quotas of at least 1,000 pilgrims had been withdrawn from defaulter tour operators.
At this point, the chief justice directed the ministry to withdraw more quota from the defaulter operators. He ordered the ministry to display the names of the eligible and ineligible tour operators on its website. Justice Bandial then adjourned the hearing till July 24.
A few new tour operators have filed the contempt petitions through Advocate Muhammad Azhar Siddique, saying that they had been “discriminated” against. They submitted that the court, in its earlier order, had directed the ministry to allocate Hajj quota among new tour operators. But the ministry ignored the order and awarded quota to old tour operators, the petitioners said.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 19th, 2012.