Court indicts ex-minister in Hajj scam
By Mudassir Raja
Ex-minister Hamid Saeed Kazmi, former Hajj DG Rao Shakeel and Raja Aftabul Islam plead not guilty.
RAWALPINDI: A trial court on Wednesday indicted former federal minister for religious affairs Hamid Saeed Kazmi and two others in the Hajj corruption scam.
Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Central Special Judge Khalid Shabir indicted Kazmi, former Hajj director general (DG) Rao Shakeel and former religious affairs joint secretary Raja Aftabul Islam for corruption in obtaining costly residences for pilgrims in Saudi Arabia and receiving kickbacks worth Rs17.5 million.
The three arrested accused, however, pleaded not guilty and said they would face trial and try to prove their innocence.
The court issued arrest warrants for yet to be arrested accused Ahmed Faiz — the building supervisor and the alleged front man for Kazmi. Faiz is accused of taking commission on behalf of the former minister. The trial court put off the hearing till June 5 and directed the prosecution in the case to produce 10 of its witnesses on the next date of hearing.
‘I was wrongly implicated in the scam’
After the court proceedings, Kazmi told the media that subordinate courts had been reluctant to provide any relief to him owing to the pending suo motu notice of the Supreme Court.
Kazmi said the FIR lodged in 2010 had wrongly ‘implicated him’ in the scam. He said that the FIA officials told the court during the hearing that they were ‘under pressure’.
He said the list of witnesses in the case did not have the name of former minister Azam Swati, on whose statement suo motu action was taken against Kazmi.
Swati had pursued the Hajj corruption case in the Supreme Court relentlessly, which ultimately forced the government to sack Kazmi.
“Swati’s claims were proven wrong last year in January in the Supreme Court — the same person who brought me here. His name is not there among the witnesses,” Kazmi said.
He said that he had filed a case against Swati for compensation of the damages made to him. Kazmi was of the view that the court did not have any grounds to frame charges against him and to indict him and that he will challenge the indictment.
“When the prosecution says that they have no evidence against me, then why did they indict me? You see where I stand.”
According to FIA Special Public Prosecutor Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali, the former minister along with two other officials had been found involved in the corruption scam after a parliamentary committee visited Saudi Arabia and conducted an inquiry against them.
The accused in custody are charged with obtaining 87 buildings away from Makkah and paying maximum advance as rent. Faiz is accused of hiring the buildings and obtaining commission through that.
Kazmi is also accused of reserving many seats despite the fact there was no quota system under the then Hajj policy, the prosecutor added.
On May 25, the trial court had rejected the acquittal plea of the former federal minister calling it premature.