LAHORE – Lahore High Court (LHC) Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial sought on Friday report from the Ministry of Religious Affairs regarding allotment of 10,000 Haj quotas to tour new operators.

Bandial deferred until August 28 hearing of petitions filed by many new tour operators challenging allotment of quota to old tour operators by the Ministry of Religious Affairs allegedly on the basis of favouritism.

The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) submitted through Ilyas Khan Advocate a list 666 new Haj tour operators. The FBR also submitted a list of 80 new companies who had owned contracts with Saudi Arabia.

According to the list, FBR counsel told the chief justice that 349 companies had filed their income tax returns and there was no amount payable against them. He said 317 companies had not filed income tax returns while the record of 39 companies was not available to the FBR, the counsel said.

Muhammad Azhar Siddque, counsel for the petitioners, opposed the list of 80 new companies and pointed out that some of them were owned by relatives of old tour operators who wanted to get quota from the ministry at any cost.

He argued that the FBR and the ministry had joined hands to reward those tour operators who either had paid gratification to them or built a cartel for allotment of quota.

He also pointed out that only IATA companies could make contract of Umrah with Saudi Arabia directly and these were also bound to file tax returns regularly. While the FBR’s list showed dozens of companies that either had never filed tax returns or their record was missing, Siddque contended.