SC tells ministry to hold back Hajj balloting results

Petition argues against arbitrary reduction in Hajj quota


Hasnaat Malik April 29, 2016
PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD:


The Supreme Court asked the ministry of religious affairs on Thursday to temporarily delay announcing the result of balloting for Hajj applications 2016.


The three-judge bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, sought a concise statement over the 10 per cent reduction in the quota of Hajj tour operators under the Hajj policy 2016.

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Hajj tour operators had moved the Sindh High Court against the new policy, according to which the government’s quota was enhanced from 50 per cent to 60 per cent while the quota of Hajj tour operators was cut from 50 per cent to 40 per cent. But on April 15 the SHC rejected the petition and now they have filed an appeal in the apex court.

Deputy Attorney-General Sohail Mahmood told the bench that the government’s Hajj quota was being increased to accommodate underprivileged people. The bench observed that the court wanted to examine if its judgment on Hajj quota was being fully adhered to in the new Hajj policy. However, the court refused to grant a stay over the balloting of Hajj applications 2016. The balloting is likely to be held today (Friday).



During the hearing, Akram Sheikh, the counsel for Hajj Group Operators (HGOs), submitted that there was no rationale for increasing the government quota and Hajj Tour Operators were not consulted in this regard. “They were not even taken into confidence about factors which necessitated the government to deviate from the … practice of last many years.

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The new Hajj policy, the application stated, had left the petitioners at the mercy of the whims of the ministry of religious affairs, which was steeped in “exercising unbridled executive powers and unguided discretion”.

It also stated that performing Hajj was a personal and private obligation for “those who can afford it”.

According to the petition, the government should not “interfere in the performance of this duty” and compelling intending Hajis to depend on “far from satisfactory” services rendered by the government was undesirable.

It stated that since 2005, there were numerous complaints of corruption and mishandling of the pilgrims by government functionaries, much higher than private tour operators.

The petition stated that the Hajj quota could not be arbitrarily reduced and allocated to government even when Private Hajj Operators had complied with all performance standards when compared against the government whose record was dismal, to say the least, in this regard.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 29th,  2016.

 

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