90,000 to miss Haj if LHC verdict not suspended, SC told | Pakistan Today

90,000 to miss Haj if LHC verdict not suspended, SC told

The lawyer for the Religious Affairs Ministry, Dr Babar Awan, informed the Supreme Court on Tuesday that over 90,000 intending pilgrims would be deprived from performing Haj through private quota if the Lahore High Court verdict on the Haj policy was not set aside, as the last date for entertaining such requests was set for July 15 by the Saudi government.
He was arguing before a four-member special bench of the Supreme SC comprising Justice Javed Iqbal, Justice Shakirullah Jan, Justice Tassaduq Jillani and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain, which was hearing a number of pleas filed by the Ministry of Religious Affairs, Hajj, Zakat and Usher as well as private tour operators against the LHC verdict of June 6 declaring the Haj policy 2011 illegal.
Awan requested the court to suspend the LHC verdict. He contended that the Haj policy had laid down parameters for three years to ensure consistency in the process. He said they had already enrolled private Haj operators under the SC verdict of July 28, 2009.
Awan said the LHC was not a proper forum for policy issues, adding that the policy for 2011 did not violate Articles 24 and 18 of the constitution. He said welfare of pilgrims was the duty of the government which had reflected in the Haj policy.
To a court query, he said the government had implemented major portions of international agreements pertaining to the Haj policy.
He said these agreements were not only of bilateral significance but also of trans-national value.
Resuming his arguments, counsel for the tour operators Akram Sheikh submitted that private tour operators had a quota of 25,936 pilgrims and had received Rs 5 billion from them. He said the quota was in force since 2005, adding that how could a uniform policy be applicable at this stage?
Aitzaz Ahsan, another counsel for tour operators, submitted that the LHC was cognisant of all the facts. He said the LHC had made observations over the prospects of mala fide but did not cite reasons.
Azhar Siddique, counsel for National Air Travel, respondents in the case, submitted that the petitioners on one hand were assailing the LHC verdict while on the other, arguing that process had been completed which showed their mala fide intent.
Justice Khilji Arif Hussain said 40 percent of the companies who did not even have offices, sold out their quota to others.
Religious Affairs Secretary Shaukat Hayat Durrani told the court that all aspects of the Haj policy were placed before the LHC. To a court query, the Religious Affairs additional secretary, who also had appeared before the LHC, said he had told the LHC about the whole process and the quota allocated on March 23.
The court adjourned further hearing till today (Wednesday).

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