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Daily Briefs


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04 September 2020, Friday I Vol 1, No.124

Lt Gen (retd) Asim Bajwa to resign following allegations relating to business fortunes of his family



PR Daily Brief | PR Team

On 3 September, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Information and Broadcasting Lt Gen (retd) Asim Saleem Bajwa while rejecting the allegations levelled against him announced his resignation to step down. He is to submit his resignation to the Prime Minister today. However, Bajwa would continue working as Chairman of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority; he has stated, "I want to focus fully on CPEC projects." adding, "CPEC projects are the country's future."

Bajwa's decision to resign comes shortly after he issued a rebuttal to the allegations against him and his family. In a press release, he stated, "I have not shied away to explain the allegations shamelessly levelled against me. These allegations have been hurled at me to tarnish my image."

Allegations levelled against Bajwa
On 27 August, journalist Ahmed Noorani published a detailed report alleging that Bajwa had used his offices in setting up of off-shore businesses of his wife, sons and brothers. In a lengthy report, he claimed that Bajwa's younger brothers opened their first Papa John's pizza restaurant in 2002, the year he started working as a lieutenant colonel on the General Pervez Musharraf's staff. Further, adding that Nadeem Bajwa, who started as a delivery driver for the pizza restaurant franchise, his brothers and Asim Bajwa's wife and sons now own a business empire which set up 99 companies in four countries, including a pizza franchise with 133 restaurants worth an estimated $39.9 million. Out of the total 99 firms, 66 are main companies, 33 are branch companies of some of the main companies, while five firms have shut down. Further, the report alleged that Bajwa's brothers had conducted businesses in the US, and the growth of their business was relatable to his promotion in the Pakistan Army.

His report also pointed out that Bajwa's wife was a shareholder in all the foreign businesses from the start. Currently, she is said to be associated with or is a shareholder in 85 companies, including 82 foreign companies. Further, the records of US state governments and other documents related to the companies shows that some of these American companies also have investments in real estate sector and that they own 13 commercial properties in the United States, including two shopping centres. The estimated current net worth of businesses and properties of these companies jointly owned by Bajwa's wife stands at $52.7 million. Further, the report alleged that Bajwa's declaration of assets and liabilities as a SAPM in the federal government on 22 June 2020 was incorrect because he failed to disclose the investment of my wife abroad. ("PM's aide quits following family business allegations," Dawn, 4 September 2020)
Click here for Noorani's full report: "BAJWA FAMILY BUSINESS EMPIRE GREW IN FOUR COUNTRIES IN SYNC WITH ASIM BAJWA’S RISE IN MILITARY," 27 August 2020

Responding to the allegations 
Bajwa "vehemently denied" the contents of the news report by journalist Ahmad Noorani published an "unknown" website as "incorrect and false." While maintaining that all "adverse insinuations" levelled in the news item was "materially false." ("Asim Bajwa clarifies position, to resign as SAPM," The News International, 4 September 2020)

On the allegation that his declaration of assets and liabilities as a SAPM on 22 June suffered from the omission of investment of his wife abroad, he stated "on the date of filing of the declaration, my wife was no longer an investor or shareholder in any business of my brothers or anyone else, abroad," adding that the allegation was "materially false." Further, he clarified that his wife had disinvested all her interests as of 1 June 2020 in any entity abroad and this fact had been duly documented in the official records in the US.

Further, he clarified his position on the "alleged investment of businesses" of his brothers in the Papa John's pizza chain in the US and DQ and the UAE, stating, "this is far from truth as Bajco Global Management, LLC is not the parent of any company and is only a management company that provides management services to all Bajco-related businesses on a fee basis," he added. "Bajco Global Management, LLC does not have any ownership interest in any Papa John's in the USA, DQ, UAE or any real estate." Further, he added, "any further investments, over and above the amounts referenced above, by my brothers and my wife were done by reinvesting their share of profits from the businesses itself and are also fully accounted for."

Bajwa also went on to dismissed the allegations about the businesses his children and justifies their actions adding, "All my sons are above 18 years and none are my dependents. Mashallah their ages are 33, 32 and 27 years respectively. It shall be noted that my sons completed their business degrees from reputable universities in the United States and have had well-paying jobs." ("Asim Bajwa decides to resign as SAPM," The Express Tribune, 4 September 2020)

Response from the government
Shibli Faraz, Minister for Information and Broadcasting said that Bajwa took a respectable decision to end the controversy.  ("Asim Saleem Bajwa took decision to end controversy, says Shibli Faraz," The News International, 4 September 2020). 

According to the latest report published by the News, Imran Khan has refused to accept the resignation. The note says: "PM Imran Khan is satisfied with the proof and justification given by Lt Gen (retd) Asim Bajwa, therefore he has directed him to continue working as the special Assistant." ("PM Imran satisfied with Asim Bajwa's explanation, refuses to accept resignation," The News, 4 September 2020)

 
The Opposition has decided to hold an all-parties conference on 20 September (Image Source: Dawn)

Opposition's APC scheduled for 20 September

Finally, a consensus
The Rehbar Committee meeting by the leaders of the opposition parties was held on 3 September. During the meeting, they agreed to hold an All-Parties Conference (APC) on 20 September at Zardari House in Islamabad. Raja Pervez Ashraf, Sherry Rehman, Farhatullah Babar and Nayyar Bokhari of the PPP, Ahsan Iqbal of the PML-N, Usman Kakar of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) and Dr Jahanzaib Jamaldini of the Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) were present at the briefing.

Rehbar Committee's convener and senior leader of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) Akram Durrani announced the decision at a press briefing following the committee's meeting at his residence. The leaders including former PM and PPP leader Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, former interior minister and PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal and MNA and JUI leader Akram Khan Durrani criticized the incumbent PTI-led government for "destroying" Pakistan in its two years of rule. ("Rehbar Committee meeting: Opposition's APC to be held at Islamabad's Zardari House on 20th," The News International,4 September 2020) 

Statements from the leaders
JUI's Durrani said, "The situation in the country has reached a stage where we cannot afford even a moment's delay". Calling the 2018 general elections "a disgrace to the whole country", he added, "We want free and fair elections in the country, with no interference whatsoever". Durrani said the Opposition felt that giving more time to PTI would be an injustice to Pakistan. 

PPP's Ashraf said, "The APC will decide whether there will be a new election or an in-house change." He added, "we will not back down on any legislation in the country's interest and present our amendments to laws in the proposed legislation that are in conflict with human rights". 

PML-N's Ahsan Iqbal criticized PM Khan and said the PTI government was "constantly spreading anarchy in Pakistan". "How can the prime minister taunt us by saying we speak India's narrative on the FATF? How can he say the Opposition and India have the same position regarding the FATF?" he asked.

However, the smaller parties criticize PPP and PML-N
According to Dawn, during the Rehbar Committee's meeting, smaller parties, mainly Baluchistan's nationalist parties, slammed PPP and PML-N for their roles during PTI's rule and held them accountable for the Opposition's disunity and discord. PkMAP Senator Usman Kakar was the most vociferous. Nationalist leaders disapproved of PML-N and PPP for facilitating the Center's passage of the FATF-related bills in the parliament. ("Much-delayed opposition moot now slated for 20th," Dawn,4 September 2020)

A critique by the Nation editorial
It is a panel that handles the joint efforts of the different opposition parties to take a united stand against the Center. However, it has not achieved much since PTI took power in July 2018. The Opposition has been unable to put pressure on the federal government. Rehbar Committee has extracted a formal written commitment from PPP and PML-N. A move considered a success. However, The Nation opines that the upcoming APC must be "viewed with some skepticism". ("Another APC," The Nation, 4 September 2020) 

 
Imran Khan says he has an excellent relations with the military leadership (Image Source: Dawn)

In Brief 
INTERNAL
PM Imran Khan says that the military fully supports the government
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Prime Minister Imran Khan stated that his relationship with the army's top brass was "most harmonious" stating, "we have an excellent relationship [with the army's top brass]. I honestly think it is the most harmonious relationship. We have complete coordination, we work together, the military completely stands by all the democratic government's policies whether it is with India, whether it is for a peaceful solution in Afghanistan...everywhere the military stands by us." Further, in response to why senior military officers were being given civilian responsibilities he stated, "This is a democratic government. We won an election ... we challenge anyone to question the election. We asked the opposition name us any constituencies which you think you didn't get a fair result we are ready to open them up." (Azfar-ul-Ashfaque, "Military fully backs govt policies, says Imran," Dawn, 4 September 2020)

Officer and two soldiers killed in an attack in North Waziristan
On 3 September, in a terrorist attack on security forces in North Waziristan, an army officer and two soldiers were killed, while four soldiers were injured. In a statement released by the Inter-Services Public Relations, the terrorists planted an improvised explosive device on a roadside. It went off near a convoy of troops protecting road construction teams working on Ghariom section of Shaga-Nishpa road in North Waziristan. The area has been cordoned off by security forces who have launched a search operation. ("Officer, two soldiers martyred in North Waziristan attack," Dawn, 4 September 2020)

ECONOMY
Exports drop by 20 per cent in August
On 4 September, data released by the Ministry of Commerce showed that Pakistan's exports plunged by 19.5 per cent year-on-year in August. During the second month of FY21, export proceeds were reported at $1.586 billion, as against $1.969billion over the corresponding period of last year. Between July and August, exports fell by 7.1 per cent to $3.584 billion, from $3.858 billion over the corresponding months of last year. However, despite the decline in overall exports proceeds in August, some of the products such as tractors, iron and steel, chemicals and cement have reported a growth of 186 per cent, 100 per cent, 90 per cent and 30 per cent, respectively. The exports have gone back to a downward trend after witnessing a slight growth in July. (Mubarak Zeb Khan, "Exports plunge 20pc in August," Dawn, 4 September 2020)

Investment opportunities in Balochistan
Balochistan Board of Investment's Chief Execu­tive Farman Zar­koon said Baluchistan provides ample opportunities for foreign investment. "Foreign investment will boost industrial and economic activities in the province as well as provide employment to a large number of people. In order to highlight investment opportunities in the province and attract American investors, the Balochistan Board of Investment has organized a programme on Monday. American investors and the business community will be briefed through a digital conference," Zarkoon said. According to him, the conference would be attended by Jumpstart Pakis­tan Founder and CEO Okhram Zubair, US Consul General in Houston Abrar Hashmi, 92 Capital founder Jahangir Abbas Awan, Houston Consulate Trade Attache Shaista Bunyad and the US business community and investors.("Opportunities exist for investment in Balochistan," Dawn, 4 September 2020)

EXTERNAL
Appointment of defence lawyer for Jadhav reaches Impasse
According to Dawn, India's "uninterest in securing relief" for Khulbhushan Jadhav, has resulted in a deadlock regarding the appointment of a defence lawyer for Jadhav to represent his case before the Islamabad High Court (IHC). The IHC bench, comprising Chief Justice Athar Minallah, Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb, opined that the judicial review would prove futile, if there was lack of cooperation from Jadhav's side. The court emphasized the paramount importance of protecting rights of Jadhav. ("Deadlock in appointment of defence lawyer for Indian spy," Dawn, 4 September 2020)

Grindr expresses disappointment on the government's decision to block the app
On 3 September, dating app Grindr said it was disappointed by Pakistan's decision to block the app and four other such applications after deeming them to be sources of "immoral content". Grindr's chief operating officer Rick Marini told Reuters via an emailed statement "We are deeply disappointed by the ... decision to ban Grindr and other dating apps that allow Pakistani citizens to connect with others on our platforms". The company was referring to the Pakistan Telecommunications Auth­o­rity's recent decision to remove "dating services" such as Tinder, Grindr, Tagged, Skout and SayHi to regulate live-streamed content in accordance with Pakistan's local laws. ("Grindr 'disappointed' by PTA decision," Dawn, 4 September 2020)

Islamabad regrets UN sanctions regime's politicization
On 3 September, after five UN Security Council members blocked Pakistan's bid to get two Indians accused of terrorism listed, Islamabad expressed regret regarding the politicization of the United Nations sanctions regime. At the media briefing, Foreign Office spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said: "We regret the decision by some members of the UNSC Sanctions Committee to block the designation of two Indian nationals, Gobinda Patnaik and Angara Appaji, to the sanctions list on 2 September 2020". Pakistan had proposed the designation of Patnaik and Appaji under the United Nations Security Council's Islamic State of Iraq and Levant and Al Qaeda Sanctions list in 2019. ("Pakistan regrets politicization of UN sanctions regime," Dawn, 4 September 2020)

 


"We have an excellent relationship [with the army’s top brass]. I honestly think it is the most harmonious relationship. We have complete coordination, we work together, the military completely stands by all the democratic government’s policies whether it is with India, whether it is for peaceful solution in Afghanistan...everywhere the military stands by us"

-  Imran Khan on Civil-Military relations.

 

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