ISLAMABAD: While accepting appeals against the special court’s verdict, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday acquitted former Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Hamid Saeed Kazmi, ex-DG Hajj Rao Shakeel and Joint secretary for Religious Affairs Aftab Aslam in the Hajj corruption case.
The verdict was announced by Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kiyani of the IHC. Former federal minister Hamid Saeed Kazmi was sentenced to 16 years in jail in the case, while former DG Hajj Rao Shakeel and joint secretary religious affairs Raja Aftab Aslam were awarded 40 years and 16 years in prison respectively by the special court Judge Malik Nazir Ahmad in Islamabad in June last year.
Kazmi and Aftab were arrested from the court premises after the sentence was pronounced and escorted to Adiala Jail by Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) officials in June last year. Shakeel was taken into custody by the National Accountability Bureau officials in Lahore.
The Hajj scandal had emerged after the Supreme Court took suo motu notice of the corruption and plight of the Hajj pilgrims in year 2010.
Kazmi was accused of involvement in the Haj corruption scandal and inflicting huge losses to the national exchequer. A case was subsequently registered leading to Kazmi’s arrest on March 15, 2011.
Kazmi was later indicted on charges of corruption in the case on May 30, 2012, and he pleaded not guilty.
According to the charge sheet issued to Kazmi, DG Haj Rao Shakeel and Raja Aftabul Islam at that time, the trio was indicted for fraud, cheating and misuse of authority.
The verdict was announced after cross-examination of 60 witnesses presented by the prosecution.
They were accused of hiring a substandard building on exorbitant rent (for housing the pilgrims in Makkah) and receiving kickbacks in the process.
A total of 35,000 Pakistani pilgrims were affected due to the high charges.