China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) chief Lt Gen Rtd Asim Saleem Bajwa stepped down from the post of Prime Minister’s Special Assistant in Information (SAPM) on Friday morning. In a statement he said: "As SAPM to Prime Minister Imran Khan, I have decided to step down I will however continue as the Chairman of CPEC Authority".
Bajwa's resignation comes against the backdrop of allegations against him and his family of possessing a business empire outside Pakistan. In an investigative report by Pakistani journalist Ahmad Noorani, the Bajwa family has been accused of spending "an estimated $52.2 million to develop their businesses and $14.5 million to purchase properties in the United States, while Asim Bajwa and his department were encouraging Pakistanis to invest within their relatively undeveloped country".
Bajwa and his family have set up 99 companies in four countries, including a pizza franchise with 133 restaurants worth an estimated $39.9 million, the report claims.
The report highlights that Asim declared under oath that his wife had no "business capital outside Pakistan". In his declaration of assets and liabilities signed in June as special assistant to Prime Minister Imran Khan, Asim Bajwa declared an investment of $18,468 in his wife's name.
On Thursday, in a four-page statement, Bajwa refuted the "baseless allegations as an attempt to damage our reputation".
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 declaration of assets and liabilities dated June 22 that omits his wife's foreign investments is "materially false", a former Pakistani Armed Forces spokesman claimed.
Lt Gen Bajwa said when the declaration was filed that his wife was "no longer an investor or shareholder in any business" belonging to his brothers or anyone else abroad. Bajwa was appointed China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) chief in November 2019.