ISLAMABAD: Satisfied with the explanation given by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting retired Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa on allegations regarding his family’s off-shore assets and properties, Prime Minister Imran Khan declined to accept his resignation on Friday.

According to the Prime Minister Office, Mr Bajwa called on the prime minister and, as he had said on Thursday, presented his resignation from the office of SAPM.

“Today SAPM retired Lt Gen Bajwa presented his resignation which was not accepted by the prime minister,” stated an official press release issued by the PM Office.

“The prime minister said he was satisfied with explanation and evidences presented by Lt Gen Bajwa and thus he asked Mr Bajwa to continue his service as SAPM,” it added.

Expresses satisfaction over Asim Bajwa’s explanation about foreign assets, asks him to continue his service

A week after journalist Ahmed Noorani broke the news about the off-shore assets and properties on a website, Mr Bajwa — who has been holding the dual offices of SAPM (spokesman for the prime minister) and chairman of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Authority — announced that he would present his resignation to the PM but would like to continue to serve the CPEC Authority.

On Thursday, he came up with a detailed clarification of the news report which accused him of using his offices for establishing his family’s off-shore assets and companies in the United States and the United Arab Emirates and that he had not mentioned these in his assets declaration in Pakistan.

Mr Bajwa pleading his innocence in his clarification said he had not hidden any of the foreign assets, owned by his wife, three sons and brothers. He termed the allegations “baseless and a bid to tarnish” his image. He said he had all the documents about the assets and was ready to present them and the money trail before any judicial forum.

According to the news report, Mr Bajwa’s younger brothers opened their first Papa John’s pizza restaurant in 2002, the year he started working as a lieutenant colonel on General Pervez Musharraf’s staff.

The report alleged Nadeem Bajwa, 53, 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 that set up 99 companies in four countries, including a pizza franchise with 133 restaurants with an estimated worth of $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 are dead now.

The Bajwa family companies spent an estimated $52.2m to develop their businesses and $14.5m to purchase properties in America. Mr Bajwa’s wife was a shareholder in all the foreign businesses from the very beginning and at present she is associated with or is a shareholder in 85 companies including 82 foreign companies (71 in the United States, seven in the United Arab Emirates and four in Canada), according to the news report.

The US state government records and other documents related to the companies show that some of these American companies (all jointly owned by Mr Bajwa’s wife Farrukh Zeba) also have investments in the real estate sector and own 13 commercial properties including two shopping centres in America, it said.

The estimated current net worth of the businesses and properties of these companies jointly owned by Ms Zeba stands at $52.7m, the report alleged.

Published in Dawn, September 5th, 2020

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