Kazmi arriving with Haj corruption proof tomorrow


ISLAMABAD: Pakistan International Airlines’ special flight operations for pilgrims returning after haj began on Sunday, albeit after a three-hour delay. The first returning haj flight arrived in Peshawar three hours behind schedule, with families of the pilgrims waiting in agony at the airport.
Religious Minister Hamid Saeed Kazmi will arrive in Pakistan on Tuesday with important documents and proofs regarding irregularities in haj operations. Kazmi will present a detailed report to the prime minister regarding corrupt officials who were involved in malpractices in haj affairs, due to which pilgrims in Saudi Arabia faced serious difficulties.
In Peshawar, the arriving pilgrims were taken to Hayatabad Haj Complex, where inadequate arrangements added to the woes of the pilgrims, many of who had no clue of their baggage for quite some time. Meanwhile, an operation to airlift at least 25,000 haj pilgrims daily via two flights has been initiated at the Peshawar International Airport, and would be completed within a month.
Special arrangements have been made for arriving haj pilgrims at the airport on special directives of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) manager, Sadiqul Rehman. Kazmi, due in Pakistan on Tuesday, will present his report on the haj operations, which have been reportedly marred by massive corruption and poor facilities for Pakistani pilgrims in Saudi Arabia.
On November 3, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry received a letter purportedly written by Saudi Prince Bandar Bin Khalid Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, alleging that substandard accommodation on exorbitant rates was provided to haj pilgrims of Pakistan in Mecca by the country’s Religious Affairs Ministry.
The letter said hired buildings were 3.5 kilometres away from the holy mosque (haram-e-Ka’aba) in Mecca, despite the fact that he (the prince) had offered buildings closer to haram to the government of Pakistan at cheaper rates.
Prince Khalid had said Pakistan’s Religious Ministry took 3,600 riyals to provide residence for each Pakistani pilgrim, whereas the actual rent was 1,500 riyals, adding that he had offered residences at lower rates, but it was rejected by the Pakistani ministry.
Taking action on the letter’s accusations, the CJP had said in his order that the “issue seems to be serious and may bring a bad name for our government”, and called for comments from the Ministry of Religious Affairs and directed for the matter to be brought to the notice of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani took serious notice of the below par arrangements made by the Directorate of Haj for Pakistani pilgrims in Saudi Arabia and ordered an immediate inquiry into the matter. The prime minister also immediately recalled the haj director general to Pakistan.
On November 14, FIA arrested former haj director general (DG) Rao Shakeel Ahmad from Lahore on a request by the Interior Ministry, after he was accused of embezzling Rs 1 billion on renting residential apartments in Saudi Arabia on exorbitant rates.