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Policemen outside court rooms in Lahore. — Photo by AFP

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Tuesday issued summons for Secretary Religious Affairs Muhammad Azam Samaa to appear before the bench on Oct 3, DawnNews reported.

The LHC issued the summons during the hearing of a petition over the ministry’s non-compliance with the court’s order on allocation of Haj quota among newly-registered Haj Group Organisers (HGOs).

The new HGOs, through their counsel Azhar Siddique, have argued that the ministry deliberately ignored the court’s directions and did not allocate Haj quota among the petitioner-organisers.

The petitioner had stated that the secretary of the ministry had undertaken before the court that its order would be implemented but did not keep his words. The counsel alleged that Federal Minister of Religious Affairs Syed Khurshid Shah had restrained the secretary from implementing the court’s orders and that the quota had been allotted on political grounds and not on the basis of merit.

During the hearing, Justice Muhammad Khalid Mehmood Khan expressed his displeasure over the ministry’s non-compliance with the court's orders.

Justice Khan moreover directed the authorities to take Nasir Khan, the section officer associated with the religious affairs ministry, in judicial custody and stated that government officials were ignoring the court's order which could not be tolerated under any circumstances.

The section officer told the court that a copy of the court's directives had been sent to secretary religious affairs and requested that the secretary may be granted some time to resolve the matter.

Subsequently, the court released the section officer from judicial custody and issued summons for Samaa to appear before the bench in person. The court later adjourned the hearing to Oct 3.

It is pertinent to mention that the petition had urged the court to initiate contempt proceedings against the religious affairs minister and the secretary under Article 204 of the Constitution and Section 3 of Contempt of Court Ordinance 2003.

On Sept 28, LHC Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial had issued show-cause notices to Shah and Samaa for not complying with the court’s directives on the quota allocation among newly-registered HGOs.

The notices were issued days after Justice Bandial had ordered (on Sept 25) the religious affairs ministry to allocate quota of 490 pilgrims among 68 the said HGOs.

On Sept 26, the ministry had informed the court that 30 new HGOs had been allocated quota while legal requirements were being fulfilled to accommodate more operators.


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