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Apex court warns Govt, NAB, FIA others of prosecution if pilgrims defrauded

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has ordered the federal and provincial governments and all concerned authorities to take action against fake Hajj and Umrah tour operators.

In case any incident of defrauding intending-pilgrims is reported, the Ministry of Religious Affairs, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), Anti-Corruption Establishment, the Police and all relevant ministries, authorities, statutory bodies of the Provinces and the Federal Government would be liable for prosecution under the law, the apex court warned.

The judgment came when a three-member bench comprising Justice Mushir Alam, Justice Dost Muhammad Khan and Justice Maqbool Baqar denied bail to Qari Ameer Shah, a private Hajj and Umrah tour operator, who is accused of exploiting pilgrims in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The bench noted that every year, before the Hajj season commences, innocent pilgrims are looted by various agencies, including unauthorised tour operators; the apex court expressed shock that NAB took no action to further investigate the matter.

Observing that the mafia had swindled millions over the last many years; the apex court noted, “the watch dogs to prevent such corruption remained in deep slumber, till the time the crimes were fully consummated,” adding, that “negligence on their part would not and should not be tolerated anymore.”

To avoid prosecution, the Supreme Court has ordered the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Inter Faith Harmony to update its website in English, Urdu and all local languages, “showing all the details about the duly approved Hajj & Umrah Tour Operators, warning the public at large that except those mentioned on the website, no other agency or Tour & Hajj Operator is authorized to make booking or collect money for sending people to perform Hajj or Umrah.”

The judgement directs all concerned to ensure that the public is aware about authorised operators and agencies, so they are not defrauded in future.

“Any fault or default/negligence on the part of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Inter Faith Harmony, Government of Pakistan and those, to whom such information is conveyed by it, shall be deemed to have violated the law and the Constitution and besides departmental action to be initiated, they would be liable to be prosecuted under the law, whenever such case is reported to the Court,” read the order.

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