Hajj scam: Kazmi arrested

Court rejects former minister’s application for pre-arrest bail.

Obaid Abbasi March 16, 2011


The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has arrested former religious affairs minister Hamid Saeed Kazmi for his alleged involvement in the Hajj scam.

The arrest comes after Sohail Nisar, a special judge of the central court that hears FIA cases, rejected his pre-arrest application on Tuesday.

Kazmi had appeared before the court along with his counsels Khurram Latif Khosa and Malik Jawad Khalid. In the hearing, FIA Assistant Director Khalid Naeem Butt presented incriminating evidence against Kazmi. Three basic allegations were levelled against him, including corruption, misuse of authority and charges of abettment.

Butt informed the court that the minister had close links with Ahmed Faiz, a main accused in the case who had been working on Kazmi’s directions during Hajj arrangements last year. He told the court that Faiz was appointed as a building officer and played the role of middleman who arranged accommodation for pilgrims in Saudi Arabia.

“After investigations, it was confirmed that Kazmi was in  telephonic contact with Faiz during his visit to Saudi Arabia and his photograph with Faiz is evidence of the clear link,” Butt said. He also informed the court that during investigations, it was found that the minister had assets beyond his means.

According to FIA’s investigations, the former minister dropped more than 7,000 pilgrims and hired accommodation for government officials. “The officials did not stay in the accommodation hired in Saudi Arabia, which caused a loss of Rs200 million to the national exchequer,” he said.

According to the FIA, Kazmi’s total income was Rs95,000 of which Rs80,000 was his salary as the minister and Rs15,000 he earned from his madrassa located in Multan. Kazmi also owns 314 canals of land in Rahim Yar Khan and operates foreign accounts.

Defence counsel Khurram Latif Khosa said that the former minister had no links with Faiz and did not intentionally drop any pilgrim. “The transaction [of the land] took place in 2008-09 while the FIR was lodged in 2010, which indicated that the minister has been wrongly implicated in the case,” he said. “The land was given to him as a gift by the people of the area where Kazmi will establish a university.”

Earlier, on February 21, the court had granted Kazmi interim bail against surety bonds worth Rs100,000 and directed the FIA to submit a complete record before the court. A case was registered against Kazmi under sections 409, 403, 404, 109 of the Criminal Procedure Court for his alleged involvement in the Hajj scam.

Other accused, former director-general Hajj Rao Shakeel and former joint secretary in the religious affairs ministry Aftabul Islam, were also arrested by the FIA. However, Faiz is an absconding accused and the FIA is as yet unaware of his whereabouts.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 16th, 2011.


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