Taking on the powerful Pakistan army isn’t an easy job and, this issue is one on which both Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan will surely agree. So, ‘Fact Focus’, an investigative Pakistani news portal that dares to publish “factual, data-driven investigative stories to empower Pakistani citizens” deserves due appreciation for publishing reports exposing humongous financial windfalls made by the Pakistan army’s top brass.
In a report titled ‘Bajwa Family Business Empire Grew in Four Countries in Sync with Asim Bajwa’s Rise in Military’ published two years ago, it had revealed the massive international financial empire built, by former Director General Inter Services Public Relations [DGISPR] Lt Gen Asim Bajwa.
In its 2020 report, ‘Fact Focus’ provided irrefutable documentary evidence that clearly proved that Lt Gen Asim Bajwa and his extended family had acquired commercial assets like 133 Papa John’s franchises in the US and the UAE. He also owned several other high-end properties in the US, Canada, UAE, and Pakistan, the combined value of which are clearly far beyond his known means of income.
What’s even more intriguing is that even though Gen Asim Bajwa concealed revealing the same while declaring his assets, no official cognisance or inquiry into these allegations were instituted. But this doesn’t come as any big surprise as everyone knows that the Pakistan army enjoys the status of a ‘Holy Cow’ in the country, and as such is beyond any reproach.
Lt Gen Asim Bajwa’s initial outright denial followed by partial acceptance subsequently, still seems to have convinced the authorities that there was no need to officially investigate the General. However, in a characteristic case of shooting the messenger, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan instead sought to proceed against those involved in the “data leak” by issuing summons- thereby admitting that the information contained in the ‘Fact Focus’ report was authentic.
However, it was Lt Gen Asim Bajwa himself, who by resigning from his post-retirement job of Special Advisor to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting soon after the ‘Fact Focus’ exposé, left nothing to imagination. So, beyond earning the dubious ‘Papa John of Pakistan’ moniker, Lt Gen Asim Bajwa has nothing else to worry about since this unprobed case of obvious financial irregularity has been long forgotten [or conveniently ‘overlooked’]!
‘Fact Focus’ has now come out with another damning report that unambiguously exposes the astounding acquisition of assets by family members of outgoing Pakistan army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa. Citing tax records, ‘Fact Focus’ has revealed that Gen Bajwa and his family members own assets valued at a whopping Rs 12.7 million-and this figure could increase substantially as it doesn’t include assets of the army chief’s son, which ‘Fact Focus’ couldn’t access.
What is most astonishing is the financial windfall that came for the immediate family of Gen Qamar Bajwa in an extremely short period of time. The ‘Fact focus’ report reveals that it was only in 2016 that Gen Bajwa’s wife, Ayesha Amjad registered herself as a tax filer and declared that the net value of her assets in 2015 was ‘zero’. However, believe it or not, in just a matter of six years, she owns assets worth Rs 2.2 billion!
Similarly, in 2018, the total worth of the declared assets of Gen Bajwa’s daughter-in-law jumped from ‘zero’ to Rs 1,271 million and that too in less than a fortnight. Assets of Manhoor’s sister Hamma Naseer also increased by leaps and bounds-from ‘zero’ in 2016 to “billions” by 2017. The father-in-law of Gen Bajwa’s son too “became a billionaire.”
From the aforesaid it clearly emerges that 2016 undoubtedly proved to be an extremely lucky year for the entire Bajwa family. While Gen Bajwa, became army chief in a surprise move by superseding two Generals who were senior than him, his family seems to have had an unusually lucky streak and struck gold, as its asset value surged to unbelievably dizzy heights during the same year.
Some may contend that the report published by ‘Fact Focus’ is motivated and the information furnished to substantiate the allegations made therein are false or manipulated. In all fairness, this is a possibility, and hence it cannot be summarily ruled out. However, just like the case of the outgoing army chief’s namesake Lt Gen Asim Bajwa [of ‘Papa John’ fame], it’s Islamabad that has given a clear indication that inarguably establishes veracity of the ‘Fact Focus’ report.
If the tax documents released by ‘Fact Focus’ were fabricated or incorrect, then all that Pakistan’s Ministry of Finance [MoF] would have to do was point out the inaccuracies in the details furnished and thereby completely discredit and demolish this report. It could also initiate legal action against the website under Pakistan Penal Code Section 500-A [inserted in 2020] under which “Whosoever intentionally ridicules, brings into disrepute or defames the Armed Forces of Pakistan or a member thereof,” is deemed to have committed an offense punishable with a jail term, fine, or both.
However, by tweeting that “Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue Senator Mohammad Ishaq Dar has taken serious notice of the illegal and unwarranted leakage of tax information of the family members of General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff [COAS]” hasn’t the MoF itself authenticated the data published in the ‘Fact Focus’ report?
It’s not only a tale of two Bajwas making huge money. Insatiable lucre of money is all pervasive and rife amongst Generals of the Pakistan army and perhaps that’s why noted Pakistan military researcher Ayesha Siddiqa has no qualms in declaring that “Pakistan’s army is just as corrupt as the politicians it denounces”!