The Haj scam case took a new turn on Wednesday when the Supreme Court was informed that besides former federal minister Hamid Saeed Kazmi, some other important personalities, including Minister of State for Religious Affairs Shagufta Jumani, also benefited from the scandal. A Federal Investigation Agency official, who is member of a team investigating the alleged mismanagement in the 2010 Haj operations, read out in the court a statement of Abid Munir, a Pakistani living in Madina, who alleged that 25 Saudi riyals had been paid to the minister of state for each of about 8,000 pilgrims against originally settled 10,000 Hajis who had to pay the same amount. The allegation embarrassed even Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, the head of a four-judge special bench hearing the case, who said the court was feeling ashamed to be informed about the involvement of the woman minister. FIA Director Hussain Asghar said that Shagufta Jumani had been denying the allegation. Another statement recorded by Pakistan`s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Mohammad Umar Ali Sherzai alleged that Hamid Kazmi had cut short his treatment abroad and rushed back to Pakistan to secure his quota of 6,000 pilgrims. �In view of the importance of the matter where serious allegations of corruption have been levelled against the sitting minister of state and others, we understand the difficulty of the prosecution team as well to conduct the investigation freely, notwithstanding the fact that the government has taken the stand to continue with the appointment of FIA Director General Waseem Ahmad,� the court said in its order. The chief justice repeatedly observed that the court was compelled to issue a judgment with all its consequences on government`s consistent obduracy in retaining the service of FIA chief on the grounds of national security. He deplored that the government had not done anything despite repeated directives to remove the FIA director general. �We will not compromise when it comes to the matter of honour and prestige of the court. Tell them they (government) should not test our patience as we already have exercised judicial restraint in the matter,� the chief justice said while pointing to Abdul Hafeez Pirzada, the counsel for the federal government. �Don`t push us to the wall,� the chief justice said and asked Establishment Secretary Abdul Rauf Chaudhry, who heads a special committee constituted by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, to again consider the case of FIA DG because in the opinion of the court he was holding the post in violation of Section 14 of the Civil Servants Acts 1973. The court observed that the pace of investigation into the Haj scandal should be accelerated because a number of steps were yet to be taken to complete the task assigned to the FIA. FIA Additional Director Syed Javed Ali Bokhari said his team was doing its best to procure evidences against the accused and it had also recorded statements of some witnesses. The government requested the court to terminate the proceedings on civil servants on contract and give the committee reasonable time to determine the cases of contractual appointments fairly and justly with procedural propriety. It said the proceedings would amount to sitting in appeal against the exercise of executive authority by the federal government. The appointments, it added, were made after evaluating material and credentials pertaining to the relevant officers. Besides, the federal government/prime minister had the opportunity to monitor the progress and performance of the officers reemployed on contract. The government contended that the matter fell within the executive authority of the prime minister/federal government as per mandate of the Constitution, and not within the ambit of the judicial power or jurisdiction under Article 184(3) (enforcement of the fundamental rights) and Article 199 of the Constitution. �Thus the instant proceedings do not pertain to the enforcement of any fundamental right in general and Article 9 (security of person) in particular. The rights of the serving government servants are available to them in individual capacity and under the provisions of civil servant laws and rules which give them remedies against injustice in each individual case,� the government said. The court asked the FIA to issue notices to those who had performed Haj at government expenses and if the amount was not recovered cases be registered against them. The court was informed that property tycoon Malik Riaz had paid Rs1.8 million to PIA for hiring a chartered plane which took 248 pilgrims to Saudi Arabia.
By: Dawn News