Orders immediate inquiry into ‘ violation of Taxpayer Information Protection Act
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Monday took notice of the “illegal and unwarranted” leak of the tax records of Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s family members.
“This is clearly violative of the complete confidentiality of tax information that the law provides,” a statement issued by the finance ministry stated, a day after a report by investigative news website FactFocus, which allegedly cited tax returns and wealth statements, claimed that the COAS’ family had amassed billions of rupees in the last six years.
“In view of this serious lapse on the part of to-date unknown functionaries, the finance minister has directed the special assistant to the prime minister (SAPM) on Revenue Tariq Mehmood Pasha to personally lead an immediate investigation into the violation of tax law[s] and breach of Federal Board of Revnue (FBR) data, affix responsibility and submit a report within 24 hours,” the handout said.
FactFocus describes itself as a “Pakistan-based digital media news organisation working on data-based investigative news stories”.
The website has previously published in-depth stories on the “misappropriation of funds” by a number of politicians and other powerful sectors in Pakistan, including PTI chairman Imran Khan and former dictator General Pervez Musharraf. In 2020, the publication had released a report regarding the alleged offshore properties and businesses of former China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Authority chairman Lt-Gen retired Asim Saleem Bajwa and his family.
Last year, the website had claimed to have obtained audio of former chief justice Saqib Nisar giving orders to convict former premier Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz.
According to the FactFocus report regarding the alleged tax records of COAS Bajwa’s family, the current market value of the known assets and business of the army chief, both within and outside Pakistan, amounted to Rs12.7 billion.
The report also shared the alleged wealth statements of Gen Bajwa and his family from 2013 to 2021.
It claimed that the assets of Gen Bajwa’s wife, Ayesha Amjad, went from zero in 2016 to Rs2.2 billion (declared and known) in six years. The report stated the amount didn’t include residential plots, commercial plots and houses given by the army to her husband.
The report also alleged that the total worth of the declared assets of Mahnoor Sabir (Gen Bajwa’s daughter-in-law ) jumped from zero in last week of October 2018 to Rs1,271 million on Nov 2, 2018, while the assets of Mahnoor’s sister Hamna Naseer went from zero in 2016 to “billions” by 2017. Furthermore, the tax returns of Sabir Hameed — the army chief’s son’s father-in-law — were less than a million in 2013 but “in the coming years, he became a billionaire”, the website claimed.
According to the publication, it was unable to obtain data about assets in the name of Gen Bajwa’s two sons.
FactFocus has claimed that after the publication of the story, the traffic on its site was “disrupted” while also claiming that the website had been “banned”.