ISLAMABAD - The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Monday acquitted former federal minister for religious affairs Hamid Saeed Kazmi in the Haj corruption case.

Former director general (DG) of Haj, Rao Shakeel, and former joint secretary religious affairs Aftabul Islam were also let off by the court.

Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kiyani, while hearing the case, accepted the accused appeals and issued acquittal orders for Kazmi, Shakeel and announced a short verdict, reserved earlier.

On June 3, 2016, a court of special judge central (SJC) had awarded Kazmi with six years imprisonment sentence with a fine of Rs147.396 million. The other two accused were also awarded almost similar sentences and fine.

Kazmi had contended in his appeal that none of the prosecution witnesses insinuated him with any malfeasance and his conviction was based on fanciful, arbitrary, capricious and absolutely conjectural hypothesis.

He argued that according to the prosecution’s own version, the appellant (Kazmi) being a minister had a supervisory role in making arrangements for the Haj pilgrims but nothing to do with the hiring of buildings and making payments of rents to the building owners, yet the trial court proceeded to hold him guilty.

The appellant contended that the conclusion of the trial court was based on suppositions and a consequence of misreading or non-reading of the facts.

Kazmi maintained that it was a case of no evidence and sentence by the trial court was a violation of his fundamental rights and not a single prosecution witness uttered any word against him regarding kickbacks or commission and there was no such evidence on record to prove the offence.

He said the role of hiring buildings for pilgrims was to be performed by a seven-member committee and he had no role whatsoever. His name was not in the FIR but he was implicated due to a political rivalry, he contended. Kazmi argued that the trial court while convicting him seemed to be influenced by the media trial.

Latif Khosa, the counsel for Kazmi, had contended that his client has been punished for his supervisory role. This fits into a context that a clerk of a prime minister house if commits a mistake, you would punish the prime minister. “My client was not involved in hiring buildings and there were no allegations against him for kickbacks. In fact, the Saudi government had returned Saudi Riyal 6.65 million to the pilgrims due to the efforts of his client,” he pleaded.

On the other hand, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had adopted that Kazmi had been on a visit to Saudi Arabia where he examined the arrangements. It maintained that the court of special judge found him guilty on the account of approving under construction buildings without washrooms and that too in connivance with his front man, Ahmed Faiz.

The FIA prosecutor had informed the court that Kazmi caused a loss of Rs1.0888 billion to the exchequer and the Saudi government itself returned money to Pakistani pilgrims and Kazmi had no role in it. The other two accused Aftab-ul-Islam and Rao Shakeel had also been awarded similar sentence by the SJC that IHC bench declared as null and void on Monday.