Before coming to power, Imran Khan used to ask Nawaz Sharif to produce receipts of his investment. Rules have changed now that he is PM

Pakistan’s default option for any crisis is to blame India. As a country that relies on conspiracy theories to snuggle out of difficult situations, it was on expected lines that a great Indian Saazish was discovered when allegations against Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa (Retd) surfaced that his family empire had grown in sync with his rise in the Pakistani military. But how does Pakistan do it? It’s simple: brush every logical critique with the paint of Ghaddari – perfidy – and add a bit of India and RAW into it.

Bajwa toh bahana hai, asal nishana CPEC hai.

Although, the paranoia that the world is conspiring against the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is not new and continues to rear its head because it works like magic. One time, a man in Chitral was booked under blasphemy law for declaring himself a messiah. An official said that it was perhaps some sort of a conspiracy to “sabotage CPEC”. Terrorism that set its roots some 14 years before CPEC’s arrival also became part of the larger “conspiracy” to demolish CPEC.

In former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s case, we learnt that in Pakistan, you are guilty until proven innocent. Before coming to power, Imran Khan used to ask Sharif to produce receipts for the investments in London. He’d ask him and his family to give talashi (body search) for their ‘stolen wealth’. All that Pakistan’s mainstream media did then was ask for money trails, evidence, property transfers and whatnot.

But all that has withered away. Rules have changed now that Imran Khan is in power.

The Story Behind It

On 27 August, Fact Focus published an extraordinary account of the businesses of Bajwa family in four countries, which included pizza franchises, companies, real estate and commercial properties. Despite the story being backed by hundreds of documents, Bajwa, the chairman of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on information, found it easy to call it “malicious propaganda”.

The floodgates of conspiracy opened and in came the readymade Indian Saazish (conspiracy) to malign Pakistan: ‘How a retired Indian army officer (Major Gaurav Arya) trapped a Pakistani journalist (Ahmad Noorani) into a web of lies’. ‘How’ remains the operative part here. But ‘patriotic’ canines in the controlled media had no interest in asking how — their job was to shoot the messenger.

The Chronology

Gaurav Arya, in one of his YouTube shows, claimed that Bajwa owns pizza franchises and other real estate businesses outside Pakistan on 25 July. Now, since the story came out on 27 August — after Arya’s show — it was proof enough of collusion. It doesn’t matter that chatter around what is now called “Bajwa Leaks” began on social media days after PM Imran Khan’s advisors made their assets public on 19 July. Moreover, Bajwa, in his declaration, had said that his wife did not hold any “business capital outside Pakistan”, which was the main premise of the investigation report.

But who cares about the chronology as long as the messenger can be successfully smeared. If there was even a slight possibility of establishing links between Papa John’s franchises and India’s R&AW, then the Pakistani spin masters would have done that too.

ARY News ran a sustained campaign against the journalist, flashing Noorani’s photographs, calling him an Indian agent orchestrating anti-Pakistan propaganda. The campaign worked. Noorani started receiving death threats. His former employer Jang Group, whose owner is currently languishing in jail, published an article asking the Imran Khan government to strip him of his Pakistani citizenship because he was “maligning Pakistan” on the behest of some foreign powers.

Bajwa’s Free Pass

The irony of ironies is that Bajwa, faced with the severity of the allegations, decided to leave the post of PM’s advisor, which was later turned down. But none of those going after Noorani deem fit to ponder for a second why Bajwa was offering to resign if the charges against him were an Indian Saazish. But no, they wouldn’t do that, because the instructions to the freest media in the world were to ‘celebrate’ the resignation as a great precedence, which no leader had set before.

Bajwa’s one-day TV outing with the news anchors showed that he was shaken-if-not-stirred. In one show, he dropped the call after a question; in another, he was edgy over being asked to produce the money trail. “Kaun si (which) money trail,” he snapped back. Later, he began his own Kaun Banega Crorepati with the news anchor, asking him if he has money trail of his house. Interestingly, the same government is currently prosecuting a sitting judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Qazi Faiz Isa, for allegedly concealing his and his family’s assets.

But PM Imran Khan says he is satisfied with Bajwa’s paperless defence and wants him to stay on. It’s a bit odd for a PM who rode to office on the high horse of bringing accountability. That he is okay with Bajwa being the chowkidar of the $64 billion cookie jar is a change no one voted for.