The Supreme Court on Monday declared Lahore High Court’s judgement on Haj quota and policy null and void and restored the Hajj Policy for 2014. A two-member bench headed by Chief Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk heard the case. Additional Attorney General Attique Shah informed the court that according to the last year Hajj policy, 179,210 persons had to perform Haj; therefore, 50 per cent quota was allocated for the private Haj tour operators and 50 per cent for the government.
When the religious ministry had arranged accommodation for pilgrims in Saudi Arabia then it was informed that due to extension work in Haram the Saudi authorities had reduced 20 per cent Hujjaj quota for Pakistan. As the government had made all the arrangement, therefore it realised that if it sends less Hujjaj then it would face financial losses. About 15,000 Hujjaj were borrowed from tour operators association with the assurance that next year they would be given 15,000 more Hujjaj.
He said in present Haj Policy 15,000 Hujjaj were returned to the association, but some tour operators had filed petition in the Lahore High Court, which had rejected the government’s step. Justice Nasirul Mulk questioned whether the tour operators association got additional 15,000 Hujjaj. Upon that Secretary Ministry of Religious Affairs Sikandar Ismail replied 15,000 Hujjaj quota had been given to the association only. The chief justice then questioned what is the criterion of becoming member of the association and who approves the nomination for membership. The secretary then said the association could give its reply in a better way.
Advocate Zulfiqar Abbas Naqvi, counsel for Haj Tour Operators Association, informed that the ministry allots the quota. He said if someone has Saudi Arabia organiser’s card then that operator becomes the member of association. The secretary stressed that the ministry allots quota only to registered tour operators. Advocate Azhar Siddique, representing 11 new tour operators to whom Haj quota has been denied, while defending the LHC judgement dated 15th July argued that federation had only arrayed 11 respondents whereas, they are 18 in number and 3 separate writ petitions already been filed and it needs time to challenge the Haj Policy-2014 based on mala fide intention to bar new entrants in Haj business.
He said the haj policy is a product of mala fide, and the directions passed by Supreme Court on 27th August 2013 had not been complied with in letter and spirit. Upon that chief justice remarked that it was the authority of the government to formulate policies. Azhar Siddique said Haj policy was placed on website on 28th May 2014.
Justice Nasir said there were two questions before the court. First was of 15,000 Hajjaj and the second was Haj Policy 2014, adding they would examine the guidelines given by the high court.
The AAG said all the Haj arrangements have been completed and Haj flights would commence from mid of August, but the high court decision would affect the Haj policy and Haj operation. The chief justice inquired from Azhar Siddique why he did not approach the court when the Haj policy was announced but now all the Haj arrangements have been finalised. “You tell what solution you have regarding 15000 Hajjaj.” Azhar Siddique said 15,000 Hujjaj quota should be open for everyone and, besides association, other operators should also be given quota on merit. The court, however, rejected his prayer and said all the Haj arrangements have been completed and Haj operation is going to start next month and any new decision would disturb the Haj operation therefore it declared the Lahore High Court decision null and void. -nation