Haj ‘swindlers’ in the dock

RAWALPINDI – Paving the way for their trial, a Rawalpindi court finally indicted former Minister for Religious Affairs Hamid Saeed Kazmi and his two associates in the Haj corruption case.
Hamid Kazmi, Haj Director General Rao Shakeel and former Haj Joint Secretary Aftab-ul Islam Raja are accused of corruption in arranging residential accommodation for Haj pilgrims in Saudi Arabia in 2010.
Special Judge Central Khalid Shabbir indicted Kazmi, Shakeel and Aftab Wednesday when they appeared before the court.
Kazmi and his accomplices had obtained residences for pilgrims in Saudi Arabia on high rates and allegedly pocketed over Rs 17.5 million through the unfair deals.
However, the accused pleaded “not guilty” saying they would face the trial and try to prove their innocence.
The court has summoned 10 witnesses in the case on next hearing on June 5. The judge also issued arrest warrants for accused Ahmed Faiz, who is still at large. Ahmed Faiz is accused of receiving commission on behalf of the former religious affairs minister.
After the hearing, Hamid Kazmi told the media that the judge was hesitant to give him clean chit in the Haj corruption case because of pending suo moto notice taken by Supreme Court. “I have not committed any crime or received any commission,” he said.
Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Special Prosecutor Chaudhry Zulfiqar, during a chat with media, said that the guilt of Hamid Saeed Kazmi and two of his accomplices has been proved during an inquiry conducted by a parliamentary committee during a visit to KSA.
He said the accused have been charged with getting 87 buildings far away from the Makka Mukarma and paying maximum rent as advance. He said that Ahmed Fiaz pocketed bribe for hiring the buildings for pilgrims. “Hamid Kazmi is also accused of reserving many seats despite the fact there was no quota system under the then Haj policy,” he added.

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