What a sordid saga

Published September 6, 2020
The writer is a former editor of Dawn.
The writer is a former editor of Dawn.

BY declining to accept the resignation of his special assistant on information and the chairman of the CPEC Authority the prime minister has drawn a line under the controversy which exploded with a report on the Fact Focus news site about the US-based business empire of the SAPM’s family.

After the SAPM issued a four-page clarification, which the prime minister would later deem had sufficient ‘proofs’ to exonerate him, this advisory was sent out to media organisations and news anchors via WhatsApp.

The sender can’t be identified (and the spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, punctuations are his own).

“… Lt Gen (Retired) Asim Saleem Bajwa has decided to resign from appointment of Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) While discussing the issue you are requested to incorporate /highlight following aspects in your transmission for correct public perception.

Media anchors close to the powers that be suggest that everyone in this ‘hybrid’ regime is on the same page.

• Excellent precidence; on allegations resiging and presenting before the law.

• Such precedence reflects the change and is must for ensuring equality before law.

• Whereas politicians / even judges take refuge of technicalities / system and get into counter allegations instead of answering for their deeds.

• The precedence has set an example to follow by others. If followed by elite of Pakistan, our moral standards would get in line with our religious ethos.

• Actions are louder than words. No political rhetorics but practical manifestation.

• Reflect the fabric and high moral standards of mother institution AFs.

• On the other side, even convicted and percieved to be corrupt / dishonest defame accountability processess / institutions and even take mob to attack on institutions.

Long live Pakistan”

This was the view of the good general. Since the prime minister was happy with the explanation, it was the view of the PTI government as well. Although such advisories are normally cleared with all stakeholders, it was not clear if the SAPM’s former institution was also standing by him.

But since media anchors close to the powers that be suggest that everyone in this ‘hybrid’ regime is on the same page, will one be wrong in making such an assumption? Here is someone, like me, who lives in the universe parallel to the one we have heard from so far.

Lawyer, writer and TV anchor Abdul Moiz Jaferii tweeted this on Friday (I have edited some of his tweets to reduce the length).

“Asim Bajwa ‘rebuts’ the story about his assets by inter alia: Admitting $70 million family business. Claims 60 million USD are ‘bank loans and financial facilities’ and his wife’s contribution is around 20k USD, whilst the total family contribution is 73,950 USD.

“Has not offered any documents to back this claim, and neither has he explained what was secured to obtain financial facilities and bank loans which were 811 times more than the invested amount.

“He also admits that his wife divested herself of foreign assets by 01.06.2020, 21 days before his declaration of assets as SAPM. This is 9 days AFTER Imran Khan told all his special assistants to declare assets. The divestment occurred after the need to declare assets became known.

“When asked about how the initial investment was made by his wife, he says it is all documented without producing documents. He says this was after 9/11 and all of us must know you can’t move money around illegally in America other than by formal channels since.

“Asim Bajwa does not make clear the amount of money received by his wife by 01.06.2020 as a result of the divestment from BAJCO. ... All this happens without offering a single document, through screenshots of a press release. Today the PM did not accept his resignation from the SAPM spot, saying he finds the explanation satisfactory.

“The same PM’s government sent a reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa regarding properties purchased by his adult children which his wife had declared joint ownership of herself. Properties whose total value amounts to a fraction of Justice Isa’s fortune, a drop compared to his wife’s inheritance.

“Incidentally, the Isa family purchases were also made well after 9/11, but no one gave them the benefit of assuming nothing can be done informally in the United Kingdom after that date. They then provided formal transfer receipts of funds.

“After the Justice submitted all his sources of income as did his spouse Sarina Isa, the SC still ordered that the FBR to verify them. Meanwhile, Nawaz Sharif is currently sentenced for having assets beyond his means for the implied ‘benami’ holdings of his family. There are no assets in his name.

“The Nawaz Sharif JIT and disqualification was made possible because after admitting his family’s ownership of the assets in question, it was held that the onus to prove their legitimate acquisition has shifted to him. A burden he was (rightly) unable to discharge despite producing trust deeds, letters from royalty and making statements in parliament. He should have just sent out a press release.”

As I write these lines my thoughts and prayers are with the families of Lt Nasir Hussain Khalid, Naik Muhammad Imran and Sepoy Usman Akhtar. All three, in their early 20s and 30s, sacrificed their lives in North Waziristan this last Thursday.

Some of our soldiers make us so proud. Their valour gives me a lump in the throat. They stay awake so we can sleep. Those are the boys I wish to focus on right now. What’s the point of wasting time on others and their sordid sagas?

Tailpiece: Former journalist and SECP official Sajid Gondal has now been ‘missing’ for two days. His car was found near his Islamabad home but there was no sign of him. His family has moved the Islamabad High Court. We have no means of saying it was an enforced disappearance. What does it look like to you?

The writer is a former editor of Dawn.


Published in Dawn, September 6th, 2020


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