Retired Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa on Monday announced he was stepping down as Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting — more than a month after he submitted his resignation to Prime Minister Imran Khan.
“I requested the honourable prime minister to relinquish me from the additional portfolio of SAPM on Info & broadcasting. He very kindly approved my request,” he tweeted.
He will continue to work as chairman of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority.
Bajwa had submitted his resignation from the post of special assistant to the premier last month, in the wake of allegations levelled regarding his family’s assets. However, the premier had refused to accept his resignation at the time.
The official PTI Twitter account had quoted the premier as saying that he was satisfied with the evidence provided by Bajwa about his family’s assets.
He had also directed him to continue working as the SAPM on information and broadcasting.
In August, journalist Ahmed Noorani broke the news on a website alleging that Bajwa had used his offices in setting up off-shore businesses of his wife, sons and brothers.
After almost a week of silence, Bajwa issued a statement, saying he possessed all the documents about his family’s assets and was ready to present them and the money trail before any judicial forum.
Following the publication of the report, opposition parties had called for Bajwa to face the allegations against him. PML-N vice-president Maryam Nawaz had said that the evidence against Bajwa was “huge” and called for him to clarify his position in front of the nation.
“If you have been appointed to a government post on taxpayers’ money and allegations are made against you and evidence is presented, you should face them,” she said.
The Pakistan Democratic Movement — an alliance of opposition parties — passed a resolution in September, saying that claims made in the news report regarding Bajwa’s assets and family business should be probed. The forum said that he should be removed as the chairman of CPEC Authority until the investigation is completed.
Responding to Bajwa’s tweet today, Maryam said that the resignation from SAPM’s position “means nothing”. She demanded that Bajwa resign from his post of CPEC Authority’s chairperson and “surrender to law as did the three times elected PM and his daughter despite politically motivated cases against them”. She was referring to herself and her father Nawaz Sharif, both of whom were arrested in 2018 by the National Accountability Bureau, upon their arrival in Lahore from London.
Allegations made in the report
According to the news report, 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.
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.
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’s companies spent an estimated $52.2m to develop their businesses and $14.5m to purchase properties in the United States.
The news report added that 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 United States, seven in UAE and four in Canada).
US state governments records and other documents related to the companies show that some of these American companies (all jointly owned by Asim’s wife Farrukh Zeba) also have investments in the real estate sector and own 13 commercial properties in the United States, including two shopping centres.
The estimated current net worth of businesses and properties of these companies jointly owned by Farrukh Zeba stands at $52.7m.