ISLAMABAD: The Special Judge, Central Islamabad, Malik Nazir Ahmed, on Friday awarded 12 years’ imprisonment to the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Hamid Saeed Kazmi in the Haj corruption case. The three convicted are charged under section 409, 34, 467, 471, 109 of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and 5(2) 47 of Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA). The scandal was unearthed in 2010 when Azam Swati, then Minister for Science and Technology, accused the religious affairs minister Syed Hamid Saeed Kazmi of corruption.
The other accused, former DG Haj Rao Shakeel and former joint secretary religious affairs Aftab Raja, were also sentenced to 40 and 12 years in prison in the same case respectively. Hamid Saeed Kazmi was an influential minister in the government of the PPP that was in power from 2008-2013. He was charged with hiring a substandard building to house the Pakistani pilgrims to Makkah in 2009, charging exorbitant rents from the travellers and receiving kickbacks.
Deputy Director FIA Waseem Ahmad Ranjha and lawyer Chaudhry Azhar represented the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in the case. The suspects were accused of being involved in financial embezzlement and corruption with regard to the 2010 Haj arrangements. All the three suspects were arrested within the court’s limits by the FIA. The court also ordered to collect the surplus amount charged by Haj tour operators and pay Rs5,000 rupees to each pilgrim if they had not yet been reimbursed. At that time, the apex court also instructed the Haj organisers to ensure better arrangements for pilgrims in future.
The Haj corruption scandal surfaced in 2010 when former minister for science and technology Azam Swati levelled corruption allegations against then minister for religious affairs Hamid Saeed Kazmi. As a result of the exchange of accusations between the sitting ministers, then prime minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani sacked both Kazmi and Swati from their offices.