The Supreme Court turned down the bail plea of former religious minister Hamid Saeed Kazmi – the main accused in the Hajj corruption scam – and Joint Secretary Aftab Islam on Tuesday.
The apex court’s decision came amidst a surprising change of events when the government – who is involved in a precarious relationship with the Supreme Court of late – unexpectedly, stepped back from defending Kazmi.
The federation’s lawyer, Additional Attorney General Karim Khan Agha, not only showed relevant pictures to the SC bench – hearing the bail plea of Kazmi and Ahmed Faiz – as evidence of their close ties in the corruption scam, but he also withdrew support from Shagufta Jumani, an MNA of the Pakistan Peoples Party involved in the case.
Agha opposed the bail application of Kazmi and Islam, saying that the government was determined to curb the pest of corruption and will not protect corrupt people under any circumstances.
Kazmi’s counsel contended before the court that an incomplete charge sheet had been filed in the case and no legitimate trail had been initiated so far.
Justice Sarmad Jalal Usmani, a member of the bench, remarked that Former Hajj director general (DG) Rao Shakeel was appointed the DG despite the fact that a number of cases were lying pending against him before the accountability court.
Justice Jawad S Khawaja revealed that according to the Hajj policy, accommodation to the pilgrims was to be provided within an area of two kilometres from Haram, a requirement that was not fulfilled. He inquired about Faiz who was appointed the caretaker of pilgrims in Makkah and Madina during the 2010 Hajj.
Agha told the court that Kazmi was the one to issue an official passport to Faiz. He said that investigation into the Hajj scam revealed names of Kazmi and Jamani. Consequently, Justice Khawaja inquired why no action had been taken against Jamani if she was involved in corruption scam.
The court has already issued arrest warrants for Faiz who is accused of being a front man of Kazmi while acquiring costly and ill-equipped residences for the pilgrims in Mecca. Judge Ikhlaq Ahmed directed the FIA to paste posters of Faiz as part of the process of declaring him a proclaimed offender in the case.
The bench rejected the bail application of Kazmi after hearing these arguments and DG FIA was ordered to submit a complete investigation report on the Hajj corruption scam in the next hearing on August 18.
Meanwhile, in the suo motu case of the Hajj corruption scam, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry ordered reinstatement of Hussain Asgher as the lead investigator of the scam who was earlier transferred to Gilgit-Baltistan as the inspector general.
Meanwhile the court put off the hearing on the pre-arrest bail plea of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz MNA Anjum Aqeel Khan till August 11 after his lawyer did not turn up in court.
(With additional input from MUDASSIR RAJA)
Published in The Express Tribune, August 3rd, 2011.