Pakistan

ISLAMABAD (Staff Report) – A local court on Friday sentenced former Minister for Religious Affairs Hamid Saeed Kazmi to 12 years in prison, while announcing the verdict of 2010’s notorious Hajj corruption scandal.

Other accused, former DG Hajj Rao Shakeel and former Additional Secretary Religious Affairs Aftab Ahmad, were also sentenced to 40 and 16 years in prison in the same case, respectively.

Announcing the verdict, Special Judge Nazir Ahmad said that the accused were guilty of embezzling money while making arrangements for Hajj in 2010.

It was also shown in court that over 85,000 pilgrims had been made to pay an extra Rs. 5000 to perform Hajj under the government scheme in 2010.

On the occasion, FIA Deputy Director Law Waseem Ahmad was also present in the court. All three convicts were immediately arrested once the hearing was concluded.

The Hajj corruption scandal had surfaced in 2010 when former Minister for Science and Technology Azam Swati leveled corruption allegations against then Minister for Religious Affairs Hamid Saeed Kazmi.

As a result of the exchange of accusations between sitting ministers, then Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani sacked both Kazmi and Swati from their offices.

Reacting to Swati’s allegations, the Supreme Court had also taken suo moto notice of the case. Hamid Saeed Kazmi was arrested by authorities and investigated, however, he was released on bail in August 2012.

The apex court had instructed the FIA to prosecute the case in a trial court, and directed the government return the extra amount paid by Hajj pilgrims.

Earlier in 2010, Saudi Prince Bandr bin Khalid bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud had also written a letter to then Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, stressing that there was undeniable evidence of corruption on the part of Pakistani Hajj officials.