Members of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ‘inner circle’ including three sitting ministers and senior leaders of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) have been named in the Pandora Papers, a global investigation conducted by International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), exposing financial secrets of the powerful.
The Pandora Papers raise questions around the financial secrets of several high-profile Pakistanis in politics, business and former state employees. Among these are Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin, PTI leader Abdul Aleem Khan, PML-Q leader Chaudhry Moonis Elahi, PTI Senator Faisal Vawda and the family of Minister for Industries and Production Khusro Bakhtiar. Likewise, other figures implicated the Pandora Papers include Ishaq Dar’s son, the PPP’s Sharjeel Memon and Axact CEO Shoaib Sheikh.
Reporting on the Pandora Papers by the international media organisation which leaked the data excludes the Prime Minister himself from such allegations, but highlights the implications for his inner circle who now face allegations of holding large amounts of offshore wealth. Particularly, it draws attention to the gap between the opaque financial interests of key ministers and the PM’s tough line on corruption before coming to power.
The International Consortium of Independent Journalists (ICIJ) is the organization behind this latest trove of information, which it calls the Pandora Papers. It describes these as “a new global investigation into the shadowy offshore financial system that allows multinational corporations, the rich, famous and powerful to avoid taxes and otherwise shield their wealth.” It is reported that the investigation relies on upwards of 11.9 million confidential files from 14 offshore services firms which were leaked to the ICIJ and then shared with 150 news organizations around the world.
In its reporting on Pakistani figures implicated in the Pandora Papers, the ICIJ refers to PM Imran Khan’s political campaign before the 2018 elections, which had taken a tough line on corruption by political figures and promised a new era for Pakistan. According to the ICIJ,
“Now leaked documents reveal that key members of Khan’s inner circle, including cabinet ministers, their families and major financial backers have secretly owned an array of companies and trusts holding millions of dollars of hidden wealth. Military leaders have been implicated as well. The documents contain no suggestion that Khan himself owns offshore companies.”
The ICIJ further adds:
“Among those whose holdings have been exposed are Khan’s finance minister, Shaukat Fayaz Ahmed Tarin, and his family, and the son of Khan’s former adviser for finance and revenue, Waqar Masood Khan. The records also reveal the offshore dealings of a top PTI donor, Arif Naqvi, who is facing fraud charges in the United States.”
Reporting by the ICIJ also mentions the politicization of anti-corruption rhetoric in Pakistan, especially by the security establishment and the current ruling party. It adds: “The Pandora Papers investigation exposes civilian government and military leaders who have been hiding vast amounts of wealth in a country plagued by widespread poverty and tax avoidance.”