Malik Riaz plans to build media empire

Islamabad—Property developer and owner of Bahria Town group, Malik Riaz Hussain, who boasts of connections with top military brass and senior politicians, plans to move into media.
Riaz is one of the country’s richest and most powerful businessmen, a billionaire who has been caught up in corruption investigations and who is also well known for up-market gated housing communities and charitable activities.
Now the 66-year-old wants to build a media empire, which he hopes he can use to promote his own commercial interests and fend off those trying to tarnish his name.
“I will go into media very soon. I will launch many TV channels, not one,” Riaz Malik told Reuters in a rare interview at his Bahria Town housing development, just outside the capital Islamabad.
“To stop blackmailers, I have decided that there is no way but to go into media.”
A world away from the chaotic, dirty streets of most Pakistani towns and cities, Bahria Town features giant replicas of the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty. The roads are clean and smooth, grass is imported from Thailand and private guards provide round-the-clock security. Bahria Town is larger than the capital itself, and is part of a property portfolio that includes more than 40,000 acres of developments across the country and pays salaries to 60,000 employees.
Malik says he is Pakistan’s sixth largest tax payer. He also publicly states that he has paid bribes to top politicians, judges and even members of intelligence agencies.
“If I tell you the amount of the biggest bribe I have ever paid, you will have a heart attack,” he said. In a public deposition in 2012 that hit Pakistani headlines, he said he had bankrolled the playboy lifestyle of the son of the country’s chief justice in return for favourable treatment in court cases related to his empire. Malik also currently faces several investigations by the national corruption watchdog. Among the allegations against him are illegally grabbing land and using favour with politicians to have state-owned property allotted to him at throwaway prices. Malik denies wrongdoing, and says he needs the platform of television news channels to help defend his reputation.
“I don’t want to go into media, but there is no other way to handle this.”
He hopes a presence in Pakistan’s young and boisterous news sector could also highlight his charitable contributions..—Reuters

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