IHC quashes FIR against accused in Hajj corruption case

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The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday quashed the FIR registered against former Establishment Division additional secretary SM Tahir in the Hajj corruption case, observing that the petitioner had been made a scapegoat while the real culprits in the case had been either let free or exonerated by the FIA authorities.
Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddique heard the case filed by SM Tahir through his counsel, Advocate Sanaullah Zahid, against the FIA authorities for registration of a case against him. The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had arrested Tahir, the then joint secretary, Establishment Division, on the charges of concealing the facts regarding the age and pending cases against Rao Shakeel from the competent authority during his appointment as director general Hajj in the Ministry of Religious Affairs.
The counsel for Tahir contended the establishment secretary and the additional secretary both knew that Shakeel was not eligible for the post, but even then they got the summary of his appointment approved from the prime minister.
The judge observed that in his estimation registration of case to the extent of the petitioner was without any jurisdiction, adding that the appointing authority was liable to be dealt with according to the law. “But who dares in the FIA to do so?” the court questioned.
Zahid told the court that the Special Selection Board (SSB) about the age of Shakeel also took up this matter with the then National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Punjab director general.
He pointed out that former establishment secretary Ismail Qureshi was nominated a co-accused in the case for the same allegations of concealing the facts, but he was exonerated from the charges.
He said Tahir had never had any criminal intention in the deal nor had it been proved by the investigation agency. The FIR registered against Tahir by Special Investigation Unit (SIU) of the FIA accused him of hiding the date of birth and the pending NAB references against Shakeel from the SSB and the competent authority. Shakeel as the DG Hajj embezzled millions of rupees last year, the FIR added.
When the court asked the FIA investigation officer, why the competent authority ignored all the facts presented before him during the appointment of Rao Shakeel as DG Hajj, the IO did not reply. After the arguments, Justice Shaukat declared the case to the extent of the petitioner as illegal and quashed the FIR against him.