Journalists file petition in SC regarding Hajj scandal
By Ikram Junaidi
ISLAMABAD: Journalists have filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court (SC) regarding hajj scam, making Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) a party and the apex court has been requested to take action against FIA under Article 204 because the agency was guilty of contempt of court.
SC Advocate Hashmat Ali Habib filed a writ petition on behalf of Shamshad Ahmed Mangat, Pakistan Journalist Protection Forum (PJPF) chairman, Sohail Rana, PJPF senior vice president, Iftikhar Ahmed Chaudhry, PJPF vice president and others on Wednesday. It was stated in the petition that petitioners were senior journalists of the country and enjoyed unblemished record of journalistic services for the establishment of rule of law in the country.
It was further stated that all senior journalists were always facilitated by the government as well as foreign missions in Pakistan for the discharge of their journalistic duties, therefore, they maintained cordial relations with such organisations and enjoyed good reputation. “That ambassador of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in Pakistan treats the petitioners as gratis and whenever they intend to perform Hajj or Umra, visas are always provided free of cost,” it said.
It was stated that during the Hajj in 2010, the petitioners and a number of other journalists were provided free visas by the Saudi Arabian Embassy as evident from their Pakistani passports. “That Pakistan’s Ministry of Interior only facilitated the departure of petitioners and other journalists while each petitioner paid compulsory Hajj charges in the shape of pay orders/drafts and said pay orders and drafts were attached with each passport by Ministry of Interior just to facilitate their flights at Jeddah Airport which is neither unusual nor unprecedented as being senior journalists the government departments facilitates them,” it added.
It stated that of the compulsory Hajj charges inclusive Muallam fee, transportation charges from Jeddah-Mecca-Madina-Mina-Arafat and residence at Mina and Arafat. “The charges paid by each petitioner are Rs 32, 000. In addition to the payment of Rs 32,000 all the expenses of food and accommodation, if any, availed at Pakistan House Madina, were also paid directly to the concerns,” it said, adding, “That total stay of the petitioners and other journalists was only for 12 days and their return flight was scheduled on November 21, 2010, but the said flight was cancelled without any reason and the petitioners who were required to join their journalistic duties in Pakistan had to pay 650 Saudi Riyals per head for the booking of seats.”
“That none of the petitioners and their colleagues could be provided residence at Mina and Arafat, although charges were paid by them and the petitioners had to suffer a lot like other pilgrims who were compensated by payment of 700 Saudi Riyals per head, while the said compensation was not paid to any of the petitioners which is also violation of SC’s orders,” it added.
It was further stated that the defendant Naimat Ali and other officials of FIA concealed the facts from the apex court while appearing in the suo-moto proceeding and gave an impression as if the petitioners and other journalists had performed Hajj against public exchequer and as a result of misrepresentation on the part of the FIA an impression was created that the petitioners had misused the public money which is absolutely false and baseless.
“That the FIA was fully aware of facts of the case as not a single penny was spent by the petitioners from public exchequer. But the matter was confused by FIA and the apex court had to give the following observation.
“When we enquired from the FIA additional director general (ADG) about the status of the amount which was recovered from Malik Riaz Hussain of Bahria Town and Haji Muhammad Nawaz Khokhar, he stated that the amount belonged to the Ministry of Religious Affairs.
The ADG stated that Malik Riaz Hussain deposited the aforementioned amount whereas Haji Muhamamd Nawaz Khokhar had given as donation on their behalf.
A list of persons on whose behalf the amount was deposited has, however, not been filed. When the FIA (ADG) was questioned as to whether the amount so recovered was not a misappropriated amount belonging to the national exchequer and as to why action was not taken against both of them, he had no answer. The same are not acceptable.
The FIA ADG further stated that in fact an amount of Rs 3,64,00,000 was due against such pilgrims, who were sponsored by different authorities and their Hajj was arranged through Ministry of Interior and in respect whereof a letter was therefore, sent to them for the recovery of the amount.
The FIA ADG, in order to support his contention, stated that initially Javed Raja, PSO to Minister for Interior, had written a letter to Ministry of Religious Affairs on November 8, 2010.”
In that petition, telephonic conversation of Raja with Hajj joint secretary is also included. Besides it was stated that in the letter referred in the order has made it clear that the charges of the accommodation at Mecca and Madina would be paid to the Ministry of Religious Affairs.
“In fact, anyone of the petitioners if availed this facility at Pakistan House, Madina they had paid the charges but no Pakistan House exists in Mecca and the petitioners faced tremendous difficulties in Mecca and they had to arrange their accommodation at their own or spent time at Harram Sharif,” it added.