LHC sets aside Haj quotas, orders redo based on merit


A three-member bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC) set aside on Monday Haj quotas for 2011 allocated to 650 select Haj group organisers, declaring the process illegal and without lawful authority and ordering the Religious Affairs Ministry to invite fresh applications on merit from all qualified Haj organisers and adopt a competitive selection method. The bench, headed by Chief Justice Ijaz Ahmad Chaudhry and including Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Umar Ata Bandial, passed the order in response to scores of petitions filed by private Haj organisers challenging the Haj Policy of 2011 and the system of allotment of Haj quota to organisers.
On June 1, the bench had restrained the Religious Affairs Ministry from finalising the process of Haj quota allocation to Haj group organisers till June 6. Ministry officials told the court that 650 group organisers were allotted Haj quotas according to the agreement with the Saudi government. Justice Saeed asked the officials whether the Saudi government had asked specifically for these 650 organisers to be allotted quotas, to which the officers said yes, but the petitioners rejected their response. Petitioners’ counsels Azhar Siddique and Ahmad Owais submitted that the Haj quota was being allocated to a select group of Haj organisers on the basis of “personal likes and dislikes” for the past eight years. The petitioners said the Religious Affairs Ministry had wrongly claimed that the Saudi government had specifically asked for these organisers to be allotted quotas.