ISLAMABAD: A journalist’s briefing before the National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance on Friday left officials of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) red-faced as he revealed certain facts pertaining to Pakistanis who own properties in Dubai which the two agencies have long been denying.

Earlier, Asad Umar of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf had requested the committee to allow a journalist to brief them regarding the FIA and FBR’s stance on details of the Pakistani citizens who own properties in Dubai. The FBR representatives appeared speechless as the journalist revealed before the committee that the FBR had had the details all along.

Committee chairman Qaiser Ahmed Sheikh of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) said the FIA and FBR had, all this time, denied that they had access to the list of Pakistanis who owned land in Dubai. The scope of discussion on this needed to be broadened so they allowed Ashraf Malkham, an Islamabad-based journalist, to address the MNAs, he added.

Mr Malkham told the committee that the Dubai Land Authority had sent a list of Pakistanis who owned real estate in Dubai to the FBR some years back. The list carries all the details of those people, including the addresses of properties, passport numbers of their owners, their names and even the ages of investors who had purchased properties there.

Journalist’s briefing before NA committee leaves officials of the two agencies red-faced

“I received a soft copy of the list from a senior officer of the FBR in 2015… there are more than 35,000 names of people of various nationalities around the world on the list,” Mr Malkham said, adding that he had found details of around 3,363 Pakistanis on the list.

The members of the committee unanimously decided to forward the list and case to the National Accountability Bureau, but Rana Afzal, the Minister of State for Finance, attempted to frustrate the efforts of the committee.

“The inquiry can start if the media person is ready to disclose the source in the FBR who gave him the list,” the minister said.

A pandemonium erupted at this response as several lawmakers of the PML-N, barring Mian Abdul Mannan, decried the minister’s statement on the grounds that it was an effort to protect the malpractices and mismanagement in the FIA and the FBR.

“We have been discussing this matter for months in this committee and the State Bank has clearly informed us that no permission has been given to anybody to take money abroad for purchase of property, therefore the whole process of buying property was illegal,” said Dr Shezra Mansab Ali Kharal of the PML-N.

She added: “It is the primary responsibility of the FBR, the FIA and NAB to probe the matter — but it is strange that the parliamentary committee is doing this, while they have been waiting for us to provide them with the details.”

On the other hand, Mr Mannan rejected the committee’s proceedings, saying that the whole exercise was meant to target one family only, a thinly-veiled hint towards Nawaz Sharif.

Sheikh Fayazuddin of the PML-N said the list carried 35,000 names. “Why don’t we try to dig out those belonging to other families?”

Responding to the many queries, Dr Muhammad Iqbal, spokesperson for the FBR, said he was not aware that the FBR had had any access to such a list, “besides this issue was not in the agenda and, therefore, I was not prepared to answer questions on it”.

The committee also criticised the State Bank for not responding to their questions about details related to the appointment of Saeed Ahmed as president of the National Bank.

To that, State Bank Governor Tariq Bajwa promised to provide the details in the next meeting.

Published in Dawn, February 10th, 2018

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