RAWALPINDI: The Federal Investigation Agency arrested former religious affairs minister Hamid Saeed Kazmi on Tuesday after a court refused to grant him a pre-arrest bail in a case relating to his alleged corruption in arranging residential accommodation for Pakistani Haj pilgrims in Saudi Arabia last year.
FIA special judge (central) Sohail Nasir said the bail could not be granted at this stage because the accused had been on an interim bail since Feb 21.
FIA officials took Mr Kazmi into custody and escorted him reportedly to an FIA lock-up in an official van under heavy security. About 50 supporters of the former minister were outside the court.
Mr Kazmi and investigators waited for more than two hours before the judge announced the decision after more than three hours of arguments from both sides.
Mr Kazmi’s lawyer Malik Jawad Khalid had earlier told reporters: “It is a fit case for bail because the FIA has no substantial incriminating material against my client who is being implicated in the case on political and sectarian grounds”. Mr Kazmi himself did not speak to reporters.
Khalid Nadeem Butt, FIA’s assistant director (legal), opposed the bail plea and said that Mr Kazmi, as federal minister, had hired Ahmed Fiaz, another accused in the case, to act as a building supervisor to hire accommodation for pilgrims. Mr Fiaz, he alleged, was the former minister’s front man.
Mr Fiaz, who was arrested in Saudi Arabia, is accused of hiring residences away from Haram Sharif at high rent and receiving Rs180 million in kickbacks.
The FIA lawyer said investigators had a record of calls made from the residential telephone of Mr Kazmi to Mr Fiaz’s telephone in Saudi Arabia and when the minister visited Saudi Arabia last year to look into problems faced by pilgrims, Mr Fiaz accompanied him.
Advocate Khurram Latif Khosa, representing the former minister, said Mr Kazmi had no connection with Fiaz and he never recommended him for any appointment in the religious affairs ministry.
The FIA lawyer said the former minister had assets beyond his declared sources of income, adding that an amount of 30,000 pounds sterling was in his foreign accounts, According to him, extraordinary transactions were made in Mr Kazmi’s accounts in Multan. He had landholdings of 264 kanals and 80 kanals in Rahim Yar Khan district, the FIA lawyer said.
But the defence lawyer said the landholding transactions had been made in 2008 and 2009 while the FIR in the Haj scam was registered last year and that the land mentioned in the case had been gifted to by Mr Kazmi for construction of a university.
The prosecution lawyer alleged that the former minister dropped over 7,000 pilgrims for Haj, with the result that 11 buildings hired for them for Rs200 million remained unoccupied, and that he instead recommended a few hundred other people for pilgrimage at government expense in violation of the Haj policy.
Mr Kazmi has said the Haj policy was formulated by the federal cabinet and he did not drop any pilgrim to accommodate any other. He said he was not nominated in the FIR registered on Nov 15, 2010 on the complaint of three JUI-F and two PML-N senators.
Two other accused in the case – former secretary of religious affairs ministry Raja Aftabul Islam and former Haj director general Rao Shakeel – are in Adiala jail, facing charges of providing inadequate facilities to the pilgrims and for their alleged involvement in corruption.