Transparent probe impossible until Hajj corruption scam accused resign, says SC

The Supreme Court on Monday directed the counsel for Religious Affairs Minister Hamid Saeed Kazmi to inform the prime minister that the matter would not be investigated transparently if all the accused in the Hajj corruption scandal continued to hold office.

Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry said this after Bilal Yaseen, a member of the standing committee on religious affairs, told the court that the investigation team comprises influential people from the government who are fully backed by Interior Minister Rehman Malik.

During the hearing, the religious affairs ministry’s secretary, Agha Sarwar Qazilbash, informed the court that acting Hajj director general will reimburse the money to the affected pilgrims soon. The court directed Qazilbash to submit a certificate of reimbursement of 1,000 Saudi Riyals to each affected pilgrim at the next hearing.

Minister for Science and Technology Azam Swati submitted a written statement against Kazmi and evidence pertaining to the scandal. He contended that Kazmi had made a statement on December 9 at his residence, admitting his involvement in the scandal.

Kazmi’s counsel Latif Khosa responded that before levelling charges against his client, Swati should have resigned. “Why don’t those accused of corruption resign? You are asking those presenting evidence against corruption to resign. It is illogical,” Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday observed.

Ahmed informed the court that an investigation team, headed by the director of Interpol Pakistan Hussain Asghar, will leave for Makkah on Tuesday. The court directed Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Director-General (DG) Waseem Ahmed to complete investigations into alleged corruption in Hajj arrangements and submit a report by January 6, which was set as the next date of hearing.

A pilgrim, Muhammad Ali, told the court about inadequate facilities provided by the government in Mina and said that there was complete mismanagement. The CJP then asked Ahmed why they had not included the evidence being provided by affected pilgrims. “There is sufficient evidence of mismanagement and still you are bent upon probing the matter,” the CJP said.

The CJP, while addressing former DG Hajj Rao Shakeel, observed that prima facie it seemed that he was being held as the person chiefly responsible for the scandal.

Shakeel, however, replied that he had been waiting for his point of view to be heard. He told the court that he had written a letter to the government, seeking more funds to provide better accommodation to pilgrims but his request was turned down.

Article Source:
The Express Tribune