New Delhi: A corruption scandal involving Lt Gen. Asim Saleem Bajwa (retd), chairman of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and special assistant to Prime Minister Imran Khan, is gathering a storm in his country.
On Friday, the website of the Pakistan Remittance Initiative was hacked, and a picture of Bajwa and his family was put up, calling for accountability. This came a day after a Pakistani media report had elaborated the “suspicious” financial dealings of Bajwa’s family, worth millions of dollars.
“The growth of the Bajwa family’s business empire in the United States and later in Pakistan directly matches the rise in power of retired general Asim Saleem Bajwa, who is now chairman of the country’s massive China-financed infrastructure project and a special assistant to the prime minister,” the report, penned by journalist Ahmed Noorani and published on Fact Focus, stated.
Bajwa is a former director general of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media wing of the Pakistani military, and was appointed as special assistant to PM Khan on information in April this year.
Following the publication of the report, Asim Bajwa denied the allegations on Twitter, saying: “A malicious propaganda story published on an unknown site, against me and my family, is strongly rebutted.”
A malicious propaganda story published on an unknown site, against me and my family, (just uploaded on social media)is strongly rebutted
— Asim Saleem Bajwa (@AsimSBajwa) August 27, 2020
Bajwa’s declared assets versus report’s claims
In his declaration of assets and liabilities signed in June as special assistant to the PM, Bajwa declared an investment of $18,468 (Pakistani rupees 31 lakh) in his wife’s name. He also declared that he and his wife have no immovable property held outside Pakistan, or any business capital outside Pakistan.
However, the report traces the Bajwa family’s business dealings as far back as 2002, saying that was the year his younger brothers opened their first Papa John’s pizza outlet. This was the year Bajwa went to work for Gen. Pervez Musharraf, as a lieutenant colonel on the military dictator’s staff.
“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 which set up 99 companies in four countries, including a pizza franchise with 133 restaurants worth an estimated $39.9 million,” the report states.
“Out of total 99 companies, 66 are main companies, 33 companies are branch companies of some of the main companies, while five companies are dead now,” it alleged, adding that the businesses of the Bajwa family have been put under the umbrella called Bajco Group.
Bajwa’s sons joined Bajco Group companies in 2015, and also started establishing new companies independent of the Bajco Group in Pakistan and in the US after he became director general of ISPR and commander of the country’s Southern Command.
The report also alleged that Lt Gen. Bajwa’s wife Farrukh Zeba was a shareholder in all the foreign businesses from the very beginning. She is currently associated with or is a shareholder in 85 companies, including 82 abroad (71 in the US, seven in the UAE and four in Canada).
The report added that records from US state governments and other records related to the companies showed that some of them also have investments in the real estate sector and own some 13 commercial properties in the United States, including two shopping centres.
“Estimated current net worth of businesses and properties of these companies jointly owned by Farrukh Zeba stands at $52.7 million,” the report said.