LAHORE – The Lahore High Court )LHC) on Tuesday ordered Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Syed Khursheed Shah to allot quota of 190 pilgrims to new Haj Group Organisers (HGOs) within a day, otherwise be ready for contempt proceedings for denying the quota to them in view of court orders.
Syed Khursheed Shah accompanied by Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, State Minister Tasneem Qureshi, PPP’s leaders Shaukat Basra, Naveed Chaudhary and others appeared on Tuesday before the Lahore High Court (LHC) hearing contempt petition moved by many HGOs against Shah and officials of ministry of religious affairs.
Representing minister, Additional Attorney General Abdul Haye Gilani read a report in the court stating the ministry had allotted quota to tour operators in compliance of various orders issued by Balochistan High Court, Sindh High Court and Islamabad High Court. Now, the ministry had available quota of 190 pilgrims only out of 540 retrieved from defaulters and non tax payers old HGOs, he added.
The chief justice expressed displeasure over the report and said the quota of 540 was retrieved with efforts of the LHC, but the ministry distributed it among HGOs on orders of other courts.
“The religious ministry secretary had given undertaking after taking instruction from Shah to allot quota to new HGOs, but now you are dragging from your feet and saying you have nothing to allot which means you are not ready to obey the orders,” the chief justice said.
He said the court did not interfere in government’s jurisdiction, but empowered it to allot quota in view of statements given by government functionaries before the court. But despite continuous tolerance of court, the ministry didn’t bother to obey the court orders.
The chief justice asked Minister Khursheed Shah to come on rostrum and explained the stance of his ministry.
Khursheed Shah informed the court ‘reiterated’ Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) always respected the judiciary; therefore he appeared before the court.
The minister said he had drafted a policy on first come basis for HGOs. He said he was bearing pressure from various quarters because he was a political man.
“To obey court orders is my prime responsibility,” Shah added. Suddenly, he changed his stance for obeying the orders and said he wanted to challenge the LHC decision before the Supreme Court. But at the very next minute he ashamed when the chief justice reminded Shah that his wish to challenge the LHC decision had been time bared.
The chief justice said the ministry had given names of 68 new HGO’s that fulfilled the criteria, but due to inefficient officers of the ministry no quota was allotted to them.
The minister admitted inefficiency of his officials and he would take action against them.The chief justice inquired from minister whether he was now ready to find any solution about implementation of court orders to allot quota to new HGOs or not.
The minister said he was ready to allot quota of 190 pilgrims because nothing possible more than it. He requested the court to allow three days for implementing the fresh court orders.
Petitioners’ counsel Azhar Siddique opposed the minister’s request of granting 3 days and informed the chief justice the visas for Saudi Arabia would be banned after Oct 4 for pilgrims.
At this the chief justice ordered the minister to allot quota of 190 out of 540 pilgrims to HGOs by making four groups and submit a report before the court on Oct 03 (today).