Lt Gen Bajwa will explain, says Imran Khan’s minister after corruption scandal hits home
China Pakistan Economic Corridor chairman Lt General (retd) Asim Saleem Bajwa, who has landed in the middle of a scandal over his family’s rise in assets that coincided with his elevation in the army, will come up with a detailed explanation of the family’s growth in assets, Pakistan’s information minister Shibli Faraz said late on Monday evening after the government’s initial response to brush aside the controversy appeared to be ineffective.
A news website ‘Facts Focus’ last week traced the growth of the Bajwa family’s business empire in the United States and Pakistan and claimed that there was a correlation between the retired army officer’s clout and his family’s investments.
The website’s investigation also revealed that the retired army officer’s wife had been a shareholder in all the family’s foreign businesses from the very beginning. It turns out that according to the assets declaration form that Gen Bajwa had filed with the government claimed his wife did not hold any foreign assets.
By the time journalist Ahmad Noorani published the news report, the Bajwa family’s business empire is alleged to have included 99 companies (five were later shut down) in four countries including a pizza franchise with 133 restaurants worth an estimated $ 39.9 million.
The website pegged the family’s combined investments to develop the business at $52.2 million. At current exchange rates, it comes to a whopping Pakistani Rs 8.6 billion (Indian Rs 3,848 million). The investments started pouring in after 2002 when Asim Bajwa got himself a prize posting in General Pervez Musharraf’s staff. His brother Nadeem Bajwa, who worked as a delivery driver, also started working his way up. By 2008, the family had opened 53 franchises. As the army officer moved up the hierarchy, so did the business.
The website, which published documents to back up its findings, said it had reached out to Gen Bajwa, who is overseeing implementation of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor – a project that runs into billions of dollars – but he chose not to respond to its findings.
Gen Bajwa clearly adopted the same approach when the freshly-minted website published its report last week. He put out a 22-word rebuttal on his Twitter handle. “A malicious propaganda story published on an unknown site, against me and my family, (just uploaded on social media) is strongly rebutted,” he said.
Foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi also chipped in. “It is now a common practice that the news is run without confirmation. A news should be made public once it is confirmed. The truth in this case will come to the fore soon,” Qureshi said on Friday, according to a report in the Dawn newspaper’s website.
When the rebuttals didn’t help, information minister Shibli Faraz stepped in with a tweet. “I have just spoken to Asim Bajwa. He will explain in detail the news about his assets in a few days,” the minister announced.
The corruption scandal has come as a huge embarrassment to Prime Minister Imran Khan who had appointed Gen Bajwa to oversee implementation of the CPEC project as well as the PM’s special assistant on media. Imran Khan routinely accuses opposition leaders of corruption. Like when opposition leaders did not allow two legislations to pass in the Pakistani Senate, PM Khan had gone hammer and tong to slam them, alleging that they wanted him to give them immunity for their corruption.