Payback time for ‘free Haj’ performers

ISLAMABAD – The Supreme Court on Friday ordered the Director General Federal Investigation Agency to immediately proceed against all those politicians and journalists, who had performed Haj on the government expenses in 2009 and 2010 and affect the recovery within a week.

The Chief Justice further ordered the DG FIA to take action against all those who had misappropriated public money during last year’s Haj and the federal government had to give Rs460 million to Religious Ministry for the disbursement among the pilgrims who were provided inappropriate accommodations. Azam Khan Director (Legal) FIA informed that the chief executive of Bahria Town and Nawaz Khokhar had given Rs5.5 million and Rs5 million respectively for those who performed free Haj.

The Chief Justice inquired from the FIA “why you have not taken action against them after receiving the cheques as these cheques are incriminating evidence against them”.

Justice Asif Khosa said: “To hide a crime is also a crime.” He asked whether Ministry of Interior has such account from that it sends people on free Haj? He further asked whether it was in the charter of Interior Ministry to send people on free Haj. He questioned how a private individual could make payment on behalf of the government, and under which law this is permissible. Justice Raja Fayyaz remarked if the state takes money from an individual then in return that individual would seek favour from the state. He said chief executive of Bahria Town instead of paying for Hajis should donate for last year’s flood victims. Justice Asif Khosa said the donation for Hajis was to cover up crime, which itself is crime.

Secretary Ministry of Religious Affairs informed that Rs36.4 million were spent on those who had performed Haj in 2009 and 2010, adding this amount is due against such pilgrims who were sponsored by different authorities and their Haj was arranged by Interior Ministry. The Interior Ministry in the first letter dated November 1, 2010 had accepted the liability of Hajis but in another letter asked the Religious Ministry to proceed against those who had perform Haj on public money.

The Chief Justice said: “Prima facie no one is authorised to perform Haj on public money without legal justification,” adding that the Ministry of Religious Affairs is equally liable for criminal action.

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