Dawn News

RAWALPINDI, Oct 17: A special court in Rawalpindi on Wednesday rejected the bail pleas of Rao Shakeel Ahmed former director general (DG) Haj and Raja Aftabul Islam former joint secretary religious affairs, both involved in the Haj corruption case.

The Supreme Court in December 2010 had taken  suo moto notice on corruption allegations regarding Haj arrangements and later remanded the case to the trial court of special judge central.

At that time former federal minister for science and technology Azam Swati was the complainant against former religious affairs minister Hamid Saeed Kazmi, which caused the ouster of both the federal ministers from the federal cabinet. Mr Kazmi remained in prison for 17 months and was released on bail in August this year.

The counsel for the accused cited the example of Kazmi’s release as a justification for his clients’ release but failed to convince the judge.

Special judge central Iftikhar Ahmed Khan of Rawalpindi observed that the accused Rao Shakeel and Raja Aftabul Islam were not entitled for bail.

Under the statute of section 497 of criminal procedure code (Cr PC), an under trial prisoner may be entitled for bail, if he has completed one-year detention, in case of delay in trial proceedings.

Advocate Mohammad Amjad Pervez and Aftab Akram counsel for both the accused requested the court for the release of their clients under the said section of Cr PC, as Rao Shakeel and Raja Aftabul Islam had completed more than a year in imprisonment and their trial is yet to be concluded.

The court earlier, on August 27 this year accepted the bail plea filed by former federal minister for religious affairs Hamid Saeed Kazmi, under section 497 of Cr PC, on statuary grounds.

Special prosecutor of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali told the court that the bail applications of Rao Shakeel and Raja Aftab are different than the bail plea of the former minister Kazmi.

Despite being accused in the same case, the two are facing entirely different offences and charges than Mr Kazmi, he added.

According to the charge sheet prepared by the court in Haj corruption case Rao Shakeel and Raja Aftabul Islam were indicted under sections 109, 409, 420, 468, 471 of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and 5 (2) 1947 of Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA) for fraud, cheating, misuse of authority, and causing loss to the national exchequer and the public at large.

He pointed out that under section 497 of Cr PC the under trial accused may be granted bail, if the delay has been caused by the prosecution agency but in this particular case the accused had delayed the trial because they at several occasions requested the court for adjournment for various reasons.

Special prosecutor FIA told the court that Rao Shakeel and Raja Aftabul Islam received 5.1 million in Saudi Riyals as kickbacks during the arrangements of Haj 2010 and arranged substandard buildings in the holy cities of Makkah and Medina at exorbitant rates for pilgrims.

Two prosecution witnesses – Sultan Shah former DG Haj and Khurshid Ahmed Shah deputy secretary – on Wednesday also recorded their statements before the special judge central.

Both the witnesses confirmed the court that both the accused hired 87 buildings at faraway places at exorbitant rates for the pilgrims.

In his statement, Sultan Shah a successor to Rao Shakeel said that during 2010, he arranged 39 buildings in almost half the rent that Rao Shakeel had paid for the 87 buildings.

The court also summoned Senator Saleh Shah chairman review committee on Haj corruption, Agha Raza Qazalbash former secretary religious affairs for October 18 and adjourned the hearing.

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