ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Saturday approved release of Rs429.226 million to be paid to about 26,000 Hajis in compensation for the Religious Affairs Ministry’s failure to provide them with accommodation and other facilities during their stay in Saudi Arabia for Haj.
The decision comes in the wake of a Supreme Court order that on Jan 6 asked Religious Affairs Secretary Shaukat Hayat Durrani to return within a week 700 Saudi riyals to each of about 26,000 affected Hajis of five Makatib who had suffered immensely because of lack of essential amenities at Mina.
The bench had also ordered Mr Durrani to submit a payment schedule to the court and warned that it would order freezing of the ministry’s accounts if he failed to do so.
The case acquired great political significance after Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) director-general Waseem Ahmed informed the apex court that two parliamentarians in their statements recorded by the agency had pointed the finger at the prime minister’s son Abdul Qadir Gilani for his alleged involvement in the scam.
Political analysts believe that although the prime minister has succeeded in saving his position as Leader of the House in the National Assembly by bringing back the Muttahida Qaumi Movement to the treasury benches, he is now under pressure because of the alleged involvement of his son in the Haj scam.
Although political parties have been levelling charges of corruption against the government for the past many months, it is the Haj scam that has really traumatised the PPP-led coalition.
Mr Gilani lost the support of one of his allies – Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F – when he sacked federal minister for science and technology Azam Khan Swati, who belonged to JUI-F, and federal minister for religious affairs Hamid Saeed Kazmi last month for indulging in a war of words in the backdrop of the scam.
According to the FIA director-general, parliamentarians Pirzada Syed Ahmed Imran and Bilal Yasin had not only accused Mr Qadir Gilani but also one of his friends Zain Mohammad Sukhaira who travelled to Jeddah thrice before the Haj season started.
He said Mr Sukhaira quietly left the country before the investigation into the Haj scam commenced.