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‘Nothing new or illegal’: Pakistani politicians named in Dubai property data defend ownership, downplay report

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ISLAMABAD: In the wake of an astounding volume of released data regarding properties owned by foreigners in Dubai, some of the Pakistani politicians named in it have downplayed the development, claiming that there was nothing wrong with the practice and that properties under their name were already declared.

The data, released on Tuesday, provides a detailed overview of hundreds of thousands of properties in Dubai and information about their ownership or usage, largely from 2020 and 2022. It was obtained by the Center for Advanced Defence Studies (C4ADS), a non-profit organisation based in Washington, D.C., that researches international crime and conflict.

Prominent names include PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, his siblings Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari and Aseefa Bhutto Zardari; wife of Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi, Ms Ashraf; Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon; MNA Ikhtiar Baig; son of PML-N President Nawaz Sharif, Hussain Nawaz; son of General (retd) Qamar Javed Bajwa, Saad Siddique Bajwa; Senator Faisal Vawda (spelt in the data as Fesal), Sardar Sanaullah Zehri, Akhtar Mengal and PML-N MNA Ehsanul Haq Bajwa.

Other prominent individuals whose names appear in the leaks include former Balochistan chief minister Sardar Aslam Raisani, media house owner Salman Iqbal, Farhat Shahzadi aka Farah Gogi, former minister Marvi Memon, Lt Gen (retd) Muhammad Afzal Muzaffar (NLC scandal), IG police AJK Tajik Sohail Aziz, MNA Amer Ali Magsi, MPA Sheikh M Mugheri and former MPA Sardar Khan Chandio.

In a response issued an hour after the information was made public, Bilawal’s spokesperson Zulfikar Ali Bader had said that the former foreign minister and Aseefa had already declared all their domestic and foreign property with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).

He said the information was available on the ECP website, adding that there was “nothing new or illegal” in the data as it was “already in the public domain”.

Bader said it was public information that the two siblings had grown up in exile and lived in the same property mentioned in the report with their mother, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, going on to inherit it after her assassination.

“Any action or insinuation based on defamation will be challenged in the relevant forums,” Bilawal’s spokesperson had warned.

In a statement shared on the PPP’s X account today, the party’s vice president Sherry Rehman echoed Bader’s statements, terming the data a “failed attempt to find corruption” in Bilawal’s properties.

The former climate minister said that Benazir had bought property during her exile in Dubai, to which she had named her children the heirs.

“What was proved by including details of Bilawal Bhutto’s and Aseefa Bhutto’s assets, which were already available on the ECP’s website, in the Dubai leaks?” Rehman asked. She asserted that both siblings regularly pay taxes for all their assets.

Meanwhile, Naqvi, the interior minister, said the Dubai property bought in his wife’s name was “fully declared and listed in tax returns”.

“It was also declared in returns submitted to the ECP as caretaker chief minister of Punjab. The property was sold a year ago, and a new property was purchased recently with the proceeds,” he said.

PTI MNA Sher Afzal Marwat acknowledged that he owned an apartment in Dubai, adding that it was declared with all regulatory authorities such as the FBR and ECP for the past six years.

“It can be confirmed both with the FBR as well as ECP,” he said.

PPP’s Mirza Ikhtiar Baig, the MNA for NA-241, in a statement said, “I wish to clarify thay my business and properties are declared in Pakistan, income tax return and in the ECP.”