Hajj arrangements controversy: Supreme Court summons minister, former DG Hajj

NAB chief, attorney-general also issued notices.


Qaiser Zulfiqar December 04, 2010

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has summoned six government officials, including Religious Affairs Minister Hamid Saeed Kazmi, in a suo motu case into the alleged corruption in Hajj arrangements.

Notices have been served on Minister for Science and Technology Azam Khan Swati, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairperson Syed Deedar Hussain Shah, Religious Affairs Secretary Agha Server Qazilbash, former director-general Hajj Rao Shakeel Ahmed, Establishment Division Secretary Khushnud Lashari and Attorney-General Maulvi Anwarul Haq. The officials have been told to appear in person before the court on Monday, December 6.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary directed Qazilbash that there is ample evidence suggesting that pilgrims had been deprived of their fundamental rights enshrined under articles 9, 14 and 25 of the Constitution, therefore all these matters be clubbed and registered as a single petition under Article 184(3) of the Constitution.

The court also summoned the director-general of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), Waseem Ahmed, directing him to appear in person and produce former director-general Hajj in safe custody. The top FIA official has also been directed to submit a comprehensive report on the case. However, Rao Shakeel is free to file a reply to counter allegations if he so desired.

Qazilbash has been directed to produce the record relating to the composition of the committee which was responsible for scouting buildings in Makkah during Hajjj this year, stating as to:

a) What was the Hajj policy for 2010, including [that on] granting licenses/quotas to tour operators during the Hajj period along with numbers/details of tour operators to whom quotas were allocated as well as terms and conditions of the said quotas.

b) What was the break-up of the total charges received by the religious affairs ministry from pilgrims, the charges received by tour operators from pilgrims and the amount paid by them to the government?

c) What was the difference between the charges received by the religious affairs ministry /tour operators and the neighbouring governments – India, Afghanistan, Iran and Bangladesh – and the facilities which they extended to their pilgrims?

d) How many times did all committee members, individually and collectively, visit Saudi Arabia to hire the buildings?

e) What was the criterion for building selection?

f) Details of each building with its accommodation facilities along with distance of the building from the Haram Sharif, along with the amount of rent received from each pilgrim.

g) If the buildings were hired at a distance between seven and nine kilometres from the Haram Sharif, why buildings were not hired near the Haram?

h) What is the average rent of such hired buildings? The NAB chairperson is also required to submit a report if there is any pending case, inquiry or trial before a court of law against the former DG Hajj.

The secretary establishment division has been directed to produce a summary of the appointment of Rao Shakeel as the Hajj DG with details of any case pending against him and if there is such a case, why was he appointed and by whom.

The interior secretary has also been directed to submit a report if Rao Shakeel’s name was on the Exit Control List (ECL) and, if so, since when and on whose directions his name was removed from the list, enabling him to undertake foreign travel.

Notices to the members of the committee and parliamentarians who compiled the report dated September 1 this year was also issued, with observations that if they so desired, they can appear in court in support of their report.

The court observed that notices should also be issued  to proprietors of tour operators to whom quotas were allocated so that they may file their replies about the allegations and submit as to whether these were according to the contract with the pilgrims or otherwise.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 4th, 2010.

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