SC orders refund of 700 Riyals each to 26,000 pilgrims -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

SC orders refund of 700 Riyals each to 26,000 pilgrims

By Sohail Khan

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Thursday made a stunning revelation before the Supreme Court, stating that the son of Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani was also involved in the Haj scam.

A six-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, is hearing a suo motu case against the alleged corruption in Haj arrangements. The court ordered Secretary Ministry of Religious Affairs Shaukat Hayat Durrani to pay back within a week 700 Saudi Riyals each to 26,000 pilgrims who were charged for better accommodation facilities during the Haj but those facilities were denied to them.

The court warned that if repayment was not ensured to the affected pilgrims, all the accounts of Religious Ministry would be frozen. The court also directed secretary Ministry of Religious Affairs to provide the court a copy of the formula and schedule of repayment of the amount to the pilgrims.

Director General FIA Waseem Ahmed, while quoting two legislators of PML-N Bilal Yaseen and Imran Shah, submitted that Abdul Qadir Gilani, son of Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, was also involved in the Haj scam.

The DG FIA also told the court that Zain Muhammad Suqaira, a close friend of PM’s son, was also involved. When the court asked the DG FIA as to whether they had included him in the investigation, the DG submitted that Suqaira had already left the country. The court further asked him as to whether the son of the prime minister also accompanied his friend while fleeing the country. The DIG replied that they could not trace him as well.

He further disclosed that former DG Haj Rao Shakeel made corruption of Rs200 million in Haj arrangements. During the preliminary hearing of the case, former Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Hamid Saeed Kazmi had conceded that there was corruption in the Haj arrangements but had said that it was lower as compared to the previous year.

During the course of hearing, the court expressed dissatisfaction over the investigation carried out by the FIA. The chief justice observed that if the DG FIA was not capable of performing his professional obligations, he should straight away tell the government while the court would pass an order in this regard.

The chief justice observed that the name of the main culprit that was placed on the ECL was removed by Interior Minister Rehman Malik through an SMS. “Have you asked the interior minister as to why he ordered the removal of the name of the main culprit from the ECL,” asked Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday from the DG FIA, who replied in the negative.

“Why are you so scared?” Justice Ramday asked. “By making wrong investigation, you have messed up the whole case,” the CJP observed, adding, “We could go to any extent as people have made great sacrifices for bringing a transparent system.”

The chief justice further asked the DG FIA as to why he was not bringing witnesses from Saudi Arabia. “Do you know the meaning of an investigation and how it is conducted?” Justice Ramday asked the DG FIA.

Senator Azam Swati, who was also present in the courtroom, filed an additional concise statement with the court through his counsel Afnan Kundi. “I am not satisfied with the FIA’s investigation as I have written several letters to the FIA but it does not bother to reply nor has it given any roadmap as to how credible material evidence is sought and submitted before the apex court,” said the statement.

He informed the court that Ambassador of Pakistan in Saudi Arabia had informed him that Muhammad Farooq and Malik Abdul Rehman and others, presently in Saudi Arabia, were willing to come to Pakistan and testify before the apex court. However, they need protection for their safe return to Saudi Arabia.

“Necessary measures are required for their protection and ambassador of Pakistan in Saudi Arabia may be directed accordingly to arrange their visit to Pakistan and back,” Azam Swati pleaded.

He further requested the court to direct the FIA to professionally and independently investigate every aspect of this case without succumbing to any pressure from any quarter of the government so that the culprits were punished. The court adjourned the hearing till January 11.
Source: The News
Date:1/7/2011