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Former Pak minister held in connection with Haj scandal

Former Pakistan religious affairs minister of the ruling PPP was today arrested by investigators after a judge rejected his petition seeking pre-arrest bail in connection with a case of alleged corruption in hiring accommodation for Haj pilgrims.

Hamid Saeed Kazmi, sacked by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in December after he was linked to the Haj scandal, was taken into custody from the courtroom by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) after the special central court in Rawalpindi ruled that he was directly involved in corruption.

Mr. Kazmi, a sitting parliamentarian, had earlier obtained pre-arrest bail after a court in Islamabad issued a warrant for him.

Judge Sohail Naseer of the special central court in Rawalpindi rejected Mr. Kazmi’s fresh petition for pre-arrest bail and ordered his arrest. The judge said Mr. Kazmi’s bank accounts need to be investigated.

The FIA presented evidence that it said linked the former minister to Ahmed Faiz, the main accused in the Haj scandal.

The investigators alleged that Faiz was working on Mr. Kazmi’s directions.

Mr. Kazmi had denied that he had any contact with Faiz, the middle man for hiring accommodation in Saudi Arabia.

However, investigators presented phone records that showed calls made to Faiz from Mr. Kazmi’s mobile.

Investigators also alleged that the Haj scandal had causes losses of Rs. 20 crores to the state exchequer.

The former minister is member of the National Assembly or lower house of parliament from Multan in Punjab province and was elected on a Pakistan People’s Party ticket.

Footage on television showed Mr. Kazmi being led out of the courtroom by FIA personnel, who took him to the agency’s headquarters for questioning.

The Supreme Court had last year taken suo moto notice of reports of alleged corruption in hiring accommodation for Pakistani pilgrims in Saudi Arabia.

The reports also said that inflated amounts were charged from the pilgrims for this accommodation.

Authorities earlier arrested Hajj Affairs Director Rao Shakil, who claimed that the Religious affairs Secretary and other senior officials were involved in corruption.

Pakistan’s former envoy to Saudi Arabia alleged that Mr. Kazmi was involved in corruption and that Rs. 25,000 was charged as commission from thousands of pilgrims.


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Printable version | Sep 26, 2021 2:25:51 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/Former-Pak-minister-held-in-connection-with-Haj-scandal/article14948546.ece

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