A top aide of Pakistans Prime Minister and the Chairman of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, Lt Gen (Retd) Asim Saleem Bajwa, found himself under pressure to resign after an investigative report in a local media outlet alleged he is guilty of corruption and misappropriation of his military rank for the benefit of his family business in four countries, including the United States.
The 15-year-old China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project (CPEC) worth $62 Billion is a flagship project of Chinas Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and Bajwa is the Chairperson of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority, Pakistans government body that oversees the project.
According to an investigative report published by a Pakistan media outlet called FactFocus on Aug. 27, “Bajwa family business empire grew in four countries in sync with Asim Bajwas rise in military.” FactFocus describes itself as “a Pakistan based digital media news organization working on data-based investigative news stories.” It has 256,600 followers on Twitter.
Lt Gen. Bajwa, who is currently also a special assistant to Prime Minister Imran Khan for information and broadcasting, served the Pakistan army as the Commander of the Southern Command and the Director-General of Pakistans Inter-service Public Relations before he retired and was appointed as the Chairperson of the CPEC, which made him a key person in the Pakistan-China relationship.
In a press release on Sep. 3, Bajwa described the investigative report as an attempt to damage his reputation. “I strongly rebut the baseless allegations leveled against me and my family,” he wrote in a message on Twitter.
“This certainly gives a bad name to CPEC. There are already allegations of corruption and financial irregularities in CPEC and this scandal will further inflame the controversy,” Adnan Aamir, an independent journalist covering belt and road in Pakistan told The Epoch Times in an email.
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
After the FactFocus allegations, Bajwa resigned as the special assistant to Khan for information and broadcasting but continued to chair the CPEC. Khan later didnt accept his resignation.
A Pakistan government report earlier this year had reported widespread corruption in the CPEC. A nine-member committee was appointed last year to study the high cost charged for power despite CPEC projects.
The report indicated “corruption and collusion between influential people on both the Pakistani and Chinese sides,” according to a commentary by the European Foundation for South Asian Studies.
Aamir however points out that the current allegations against Bajwa are not linked with China and CPEC in any way.
“China and CPEC are dragged in this scandal because General Bajwa is the chief of Belt and Road in Pakistan,” said Aamir.
I strongly rebut the baseless allegations levelled against me and my family. Alhamdolillah another attempt to damage our reputation belied/exposed.I have and will always serve Pakistan with pride and dignity. pic.twitter.com/j185UoGhx1
— Asim Saleem Bajwa (@AsimSBajwa) September 3, 2020
The FactFocus investigation said that the growth of the Bajwa familys business in the United States and later in Pakistan progressed proportionally with Lt. Gen Bajwas rising “power” within the army.
“Asim Bajwas younger brothers opened their first Papa Johns pizza restaurant in 2002, the year he went to work for General Pervez Musharraf as a lieutenant colonel on the military dictators staff,” said the investigative report by journalist and co-founder of FactFocus, Ahmad Noorani.
Musharraf had come to power by leading a coup against the then Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif in 1999 and had appointed himself as the President of Pakistan in 2001 while continuing to head the army.
The massive FactFocus report includes, among other information, the following: a database of the 99 companies set up by Bajwa family along with all the relevant documents; year-by-year details of the setting up of Papa John franchises, along with the estimated investment required; and details of the commercial and residential properties purchases, along with relevant documents; and a graphical timeline of the developments that took place in the Bajwa family business.
This detailed array of circumstantial evidence basically asks the question of how someone on an army salary with no prior evidence of wealth came to have extensive holdings in four countries outside Pakistan.
A Pakistani political analyst on conditions of anonymity explained what the report provides evidence for. “Its saying that General Bajwa used his power in the military to make illegal money and then laundered them abroad where his family invested them in businesses.”
The report says that from 2002, when Lt Gen Bajwa joined Musharaffs staff, to 2008, the family purchased 53 franchises of Papa Johns Pizza worth $16 million and registered 19 companies in the United States, two in Pakistan, and four in Canada. The report lists and tabulates details year-wise how the Bajwa familys wealth increased as his “power” in the army increased.
The editor of the report said the group managing investments to these companies avoided questions about where the initial investments for the business in the early 2000s came from.
The report says that when the lt. general was appointed as the assistant to Khan for information and broadcasting he declared in his statement of assets and liabilities that he and his wife did not have any “Immovable Property Held outside Pakistan” and also did not have “Business Capital outside Pakistan,” which contradicts the familys business assets within and outside the country uncovered by FactFocus.
The Epoch Times reached out to Papa Johns Pizza for a statement on the allegations against the Bajwa familys business but is yet to receive a reply.
“The records of US state governments and other records related to companies show that some of these American companies (all jointly owned by Asims wife Farrukh Zeba) also have investments in the real estate sector and own some thirteen commercial properties in the United States including two shopping centers,” said the FactFocus report, adding that the total worth owned by Zeba is $ 52.7 million.
The report said the familys global business is managed by a company called Bajco Global Management LLC thats registered in the United States and has a liaison office in Pakistan.
“The official documents of this parent company show that Asim Bajwas wife, FarrukRead More – Source