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People performing govt-sponsored Hajj will have to return money: SC

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday observed that all those who had performed Hajj at the government expenses have to return the money.

A four-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and comprising Justice Javed Iqbal, Justice Raja Fayyaz and Justice Ghulam Rabbani, heard the Hajj scandal case.

Justice Javed Iqbal directed the FIA to issue notices to those who had performed Hajj on government expenses, including Ministry of Interior Media Adviser, Nawazish Ali, who took journalists on Hajj free of cost. He asked FIA that if those people did not receive notices, a criminal case would be registered against them.

FIA Director Hussain Asghar informed the court that Bahria Town CEO made the payment for a PIA plane chartered for the pilgrims who had performed pilgrimage on government’s expenses. Justice Fayyaz questioned whether he made the payment voluntarily or was asked to do so after the apex court heard the case. The CJP said an ordinary citizen could not charter plane as there was a lengthy procedure for it.

At the outset of hearing, FIA Additional Director Syed Javed Ali Bokhari, appeared along with Hussain Asghar, and pointed out that in compliance with the direction of the court, a regular daily investigation report was being filed before Justice Raja Fayyaz Ahmed. On the basis of these reports, a conclusion had also been drawn by his lordship that the pace of progress of investigation appeared to be extremely slow and no effective legal steps and action so far had been taken by the investigating officer against all concerned, who were not providing the requisite information and documents essential for the further progress in the main case, as well as; in the investigation of the offshoot cases against accused people found prima facie involved in committing different offences, rather; it is noteworthy from these reports that government functionaries were deliberately hampering and obstructing the course of investigation but consequential action so far has not been resorted against any of the defaulters by the FIA.

Justice Raja Fayyaz Ahmad also observed that it was a legal duty of the investigating officer to deeply examine all the material aspects of the case and to collect all incriminating material particularly, be it in the shape of oral or documentary evidence and to concentrate as to how and in which manner each of the allegations culminating in constituting the offences of which they are proceeded against, can be substantiated in a court of law, which aspects remain omitted from taking due notice of, so far. The comments do not relate to the merits of the case except that the same are made in relation to the responsibility of an investigating officer, cast upon him under the law to reach the truth through the process of investigation and to bring the people to the court of law, incase found guilty of charges against them.

The FIA director informed the court that although the government was aware that there was a case against former Hajj director general, Rao Shakeel, he was still appointed Hajj director general in Saudi Arabia.

Rao Shakeel said 1,000 pilgrims performed pilgrimage at the government expenses in 2009 and he had sent a collective bill to the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

The chief justice questioned whether former Hajj director, Hazarvi, was also involved. Asghar’s reply was affirmative and said he was still in Saudi Arabia. Justice Javed said that since a long time no audit of Hajj funds was conducted.

An FIA official quoting the statement of an employee of Hajj Directorate Abid Munir and middleman Naseer, informed the court that former state minister for religious affairs, Shagufta Jumani, was also involved in the corruption, but she denied the charges, he added.

Javed Bukhari informed that former federal minister for religious affairs, Syed Hamid Kazmi’s bail had been cancelled and he was in the custody of the FIA. He said still officials of the State Bank of Pakistan were not providing them details of the transactions of Kazmi’s bank accounts.

Justice Raja Fayyaz said that under the law, the FIA could take action against those officers who do not cooperate with the agency in discharge of their official duty. The chief justice directed the FIA to show zero tolerance in corruption cases.

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