Financial Scandal Surrounds Pakistan Ministry's Hajj Arrangements

With the arrival of Hajj participants from around the world underway in Saudi Arabia, scandal swirls around the financial dealings of Pakistan's Religious Affairs Ministry in its arrangement of housing for Pakistani Hajj pilgrims. First, according to Monday's Pakistan Express Tribune, Pakistan's Hajj officials arranged for housing for Pakistanis too far away from Hajj activities, so many are instead camping on foot paths and roads. Then Hajj Director General Rao Shakeel was called back to Pakistan, charged with corruption in arranging the inadequate housing. According to today's Express Tribune, Saudi Prince Bin Bandar Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud in a letter to Pakistan's Chief Justice alleged that the Religious Affairs Ministry rented out housing to pilgrims at more than twice the actual cost, apparently embezzling the difference. The Supreme Court has ordered the government to deal with the issue on a national level, has ordered the Foreign Office to contact the Saudi government, and has ordered the government to respond to the court within 15 days. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani has appointed a 3-member committee to probe the charges. Pakistan's Parliament has reacted to the situation. According to Online International News Network, the Senate's Standing Committee on Religious Affairs has recommended that the Prime Minister remove Shakeel from his position, as has the Federal Minister for Religious Affairs.

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