The religious affairs ministry planned to introduce a shorter duration of Hajj journey in the new policy, which would soon be presented before the caretaker federal cabinet for approval, Religious Affairs Minister Aneeq Ahmed told a Senate panel on Monday.
During a meeting of the Standing Committee on Religious Affairs, the minister said that the Saudi Arabian government had decided that only 46 companies would conduct the Hajj operations from Pakistan, adding that the government could not do much about it.
Committee member Maulana Abdul Karim told the meeting that there would be problems if the operations of 905 companies were reduced to 46 companies.
Minister Ahmed replied: “We cannot do much about it, but we can request for a leniency for one year.”
Maulana Faiz Muhammad, also a committee member, suggested that the new plan should be implemented from next year, adding that “we have to solve the problem” by talking to the Saudi Arabian authorities.
The minister said that he had asked the Saudi Arabian authorities to review the decision, but they did not agree.
He added that a letter could be written to the Saudi Arabian government to inform it that there could be some difficulties in implementing the decision because it had been taken suddenly.
Ahmed said that the Saudi Arabian government was planning to increase the number of pilgrims to 10 million. He also said that currently, the Road to Makkah project was running only from Islamabad but the Saudi Arabian government had decided to include Karachi in the project during the next Hajj.
Ahmed informed the committee that the Hajj Policy 2024 would be presented to the cabinet for approval soon.
He said that there was a proposal to reduce the duration of the Hajj journey from 45 days to 18-20 days from next year.
The minister informed the committee that the government would try to ensure that the Hajj expenses of the short duration remained equal to that of the regular duration.
He said that it would be up to the pilgrims, whether they choose to stay long or less in Saudi Arabia.
The regular Hajj package usually consisted of 35 to 50 days, which included the cost of accommodation, hotel, food and transportation. The committee chair suggested the shorter duration should spread over 30 days. The minister replied that the suggestion would be considered.
Dilating further on the new Hajj scheme, the minister said that every pilgrim would be given two suitcases, adding that the suitcases could be located through the QR codes in case of losing them. He also said that the government would provide mobile SIM for 45 days which would be used for video calls.
Ahad Cheema acquitted in NAB reference
An accountability court on Friday acquitted Ahad Cheema, the special assistant to the caretaker prime minister, in assets beyond means reference filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
Accountability Judge Ali Zulqarnain had reserved the ruling on the acquittal plea after hearing arguments of the NAB prosecutor and the defence counsel earlier in the day. Cheema also appeared before the court during the proceedings.
On Nov 27, in a supplementary report, NAB informed the court that Cheema’s assets were consistent with his known income, asserting that properties held by alleged benamidars/relatives were not his. Based on evidence, the case under NAO, 1999, was not substantiated, it added.
Cheema had served as the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) director general during the PML-N government in Punjab. The bureau had arrested Cheema in 2018 when he appeared before a joint investigation team in connection with the Ashiana-e-Iqbal Housing Scheme case.
Later, NAB initiated assets beyond means and other inquiries against him. However, Cheema obtained bail in three cases, including assets beyond means case in 2021.
Bilawal consults legal minds on ZAB reference
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Friday consulted legal minds of his party on the presidential reference case of his late grandfather, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
The development came during a meeting of central and provincial officials as well as legal experts of the Peoples Lawyers Forum (PLF) at Zardari House here. Bilawal chaired the meeting.
During the meeting, the PLF officials briefed Bilawal on the presidential reference case of ZAB. Farooq H Naik and Shahadat Awan participated in the meeting through video link while Qazi Bashir, Bahram Khan Tareen, Raheel Kamran Cheema, Sajid Tanoli, Gohar Rehman Khattak, Ghiyasul Haque and Asrar Abbasi were present.
Syed Nayyar Hussain Bokhari, Faisal Karim Kundi, Raza Rabbani and Amna Paracha were also present in the meeting.
Meanwhile, a civil society delegation also met with Bilawal and discussed the challenges faced by the masses and their solutions.
Bilawal appreciated the delegation for their services and performance in their respective fields.
Ahmed Faraz Khan Advocate, Barrister Saifullah Ghori, Bilal Tariq Khan, Dr Abdul Mohiman, Dr Maria Hamid, Dr Salma Malik, Faheem Sardar, Hafiz Muhammad Tahir, Huma Fawad, Jahanzeb Durrani and Kanwal Malik were among those who met the PPP chairman.
Lubna Bhayat, SM Tariq, Javed Akhtar, Pir Mohammad Anwar, Junaid, Raja Mohammad Khan, Sania Kamran, Shehbaz Zaheer, Shamamata Al Ambararbab, Buland Sohail, Kashaf Ahmed, Talha Rahmani, Osama Malik, Usman Iqbal Bandal and Yusuf Masih were part of the delegation. PPP Information Secretary Faisal Karim Kundi was also present on this occasion.
SC to take up appeals against military trial verdict on Dec 13
The Supreme Court is set to take up high-profile cases in the coming week, including the appeals against its verdict in the trial of civilians in military courts and pleas filed by Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi.
A Supreme Court larger bench will hear on Dec 13 the intra-court appeals against its judgment in the case of civilians being tried in military courts. The appeals have been filed by the caretaker governments and the defence ministry.
On Oct 23, a five-judge bench of the SC unanimously declared the trial of civilians in military courts as null and void and ordered that the 103 accused in cases relating to the violence on May 9 and 10 be tried under ordinary criminal laws.
Moreover, Justice Naqvi, who is facing complaints of misconduct, recently wrote a letter to the top court’s three senior-most judges’ panel to point out the silence over his petitions challenging the issuance of a show-cause notice to him by the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) despite the lapse of time as stipulated in the SC (Practice & Procedure) Act, 2023.
A three-judge bench, comprising Justice Aminuddin Khan, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail and Justice Musarrat Hilali, will hear his petitions on December 15.
A nine-member larger bench of the apex court led by Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa will take up a presidential reference for revisiting the judgment wherein the death sentence of PPP founder and former premier Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was endorsed.
The bench will conduct its proceedings in courtroom No. 1 on December 12. These decisions were made by the SC three-member committee comprising CJP Isa, Justice Sardar Tariq Masood and Justice Ijazul Ahsan.
The other high-profile cases that will be tackled by the SC in the coming week include the evacuation of illegal Afghan residents, reclassification of commercial land in Karachi, and reinstatement of the FIR against PTI leader Moonis Elahi.
The top court has scheduled the hearing for petitions challenging the evacuation of foreign nationals, especially Afghan citizens, residing unlawfully in the country.
A three-judge bench, comprising Justice Masood, Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Ayesha Malik, will hear these pleas on December 12.
Farhatullah Babar, Mushtaq Ahmed, Amina Masood Janjua, Mohsin Dawar, Jibran Nasir, Syed Muaz Shah, Pastor Ghazala Parveen, Imaan Zainab Mazari, Ahmad Shabbar, Advocate Imran Shafiq, Luke Victor, Sijal Shafiq, and Rohail Kasi are contesting the evacuation orders.
In a separate case, the dismissal of a Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) case against PTI’s Moonis by a special judge in Lahore and then the upholding of that decision by the Lahore High Court, has been challenged in the SC.
The FIA has filed an appeal against the dismissal, leading to a review in the apex court.
Moreover, the SC, previously deliberating on the powers of the caretaker government, directed the attorney general for Pakistan (AGP) to assist the court in forming a larger bench to interpret its authority.
In addition, review petitions challenging the decision on the reclassification of land in Karachi to commercial status will be heard in the coming week as well. A three-judge bench, led by Justice Ahsan, is scheduled to hear the matter on December 11.
The court has issued notices to all relevant parties, including the Sindh government, following its earlier ruling invalidating the conversion of public land into residential and commercial categories.
These petitions stem from a challenge initiated in 2010 by former Karachi nazim Niamatullah Khan against the alteration of public land’s categorisation.
A five-judge bench, led by CJP Isa, will also take up on December 14 former Islamabad High Court judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui’s petition against his removal.
It is expected that the proceedings of both Bhutto and the ex-IHC judge’s cases will be available on the SC website.
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