Cabinet membership a ticket to swelling wealth

Ministers in PTI's former cabinet saw collective wealth increase by 76% but some lost money

Even as it publicly pursued an anti-graft policy, targeting alleged corruption of political opponents, the nearly four-year reign of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) saw the wealth of its some 50 cabinet members and their families swell by a combined 76% to a whopping Rs18 billion. However, some cabinet members also saw their wealth shrink during this period while some never declared their income.

SAMAA TV’s investigative unit undertook a months-long effort to acquire, review and analyse data about the wealth of PTI’s 50 cabinet members from 2017 to 2020. The documents were sourced from the political finance wing of the Elections Commission of Pakistan (ECP), the Cabinet Division and the federal tax authorities.

The documents showed that the combined wealth of the top 50 cabinet members was Rs18 billion. Of this, Rs13 billion was owned by just five cabinet members, more than all the other ministers combined. The cabinet included at least 36 millionaires and some five billionaires.

Moreover, a review of the documents disclosed that there were around a dozen cabinet members who saw their wealth, or assets of their family grow either 100% or 200%. These members or their families collectively owned assets worth nearly Rs2.15 billion in 2018 when the PTI took power. By 2020, these assets had grown to Rs6 billion.

Where there were increases, some cabinet members saw that their time spent in government work had a negative impact on their overall asset holdings. Further, at least three cabinet members never bothered to declare their assets.

Natural progression or…?

Former National Assembly speaker Asad Qaiser and his wife declared assets worth Rs64 million in 2014. By 2019-20, those assets had swelled by 26.6% to a value of Rs81 million. His deputy speaker Qasim Suri saw assets grow by 70% from Rs5 million in 2018 to Rs8.5 million in 2019-20.

Former federal communications minister Murad Saeed saw one of the biggest increases in assets from declaring a humbling Rs0.4 million in 2014-15 to Rs3.1 million in 2019-20, a 675% increase. It still meant that in terms of official declarations, he was the poorest cabinet member.

Another former federal minister, Hammad Azhar and his wife had declared in 2018 that he held assets worth Rs309.9 million. But over the next fiscal year, it had swelled by 16.4% in his assets worth Rs360.6 million in 2019-20.

Former federal information minister Shibli Fraz and his family members saw their wealth increase by 30% while serving in the cabinet. From owning assets worth Rs202.8 million with Rs40.3 million in loans in 2015, they increased to Rs264.3 million with a liability of Rs46.7 million in 2019-20.

Similarly, former federal minister Ali Mohammad and his family saw their wealth rise from Rs43.9 million in 2014 to Rs65 million in 2019-20, a jump of 48%.

Former state minister for housing Shabbir Qureshi saw only a slight increase in his assets. Having declared assets worth Rs16 million in 2018, he filed documents showing he held assets worth Rs21 million in 2019-20, a change of 31.2%.

Zartaj Gul, the former federal minister for climate change and her husband had declared assets worth just Rs9.1 million in 2018. But by the time she declared her assets in 2019-20, her wealth had swelled 51.65% to Rs13.8 million.

Former maritime affairs minister Ali Zaidi witnessed a meagre increase of 9% in his assets, declaring Rs30.2 million in 2016-17 which just swelled to Rs32.8 million in 2019-20.

Once touted to be an economic genius, former finance and planning minister Asad Umar and his wife had declared assets worth Rs619.2 million in 2013-14. These assets grew by just eight percent over the next seven years to Rs668 million in 2019.

Price of cabinet membership

Contrary to the trend in the federal cabinet, half a dozen ministers witnessed a sudden decrease in their wealth while in office.

This included the likes of former defence minister Pervez Khattak, who saw his assets worth Rs280 million, declared in 2015-16, shrink to Rs165 million with an added liability of Rs25.2 million in 2019-20, a fall of 41%.

Former federal aviation minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan had declared assets worth Rs93 million in 2014-15. However, by 2019-20, he was declaring assets worth only Rs52 million, a decrease of 44.1%.

Former Kashmir Committee Chairman Shehryar Afridi saw assets nearly halved from Rs45 million he declared in 2015-16 to just Rs23 million in 2019-20, a downward change of 48.9%.

Similarly, former Kashmir affairs minister Ali Gandapur had declared assets worth Rs105 million in 2013-14. By 2015, his declared assets had started shrinking, contracting to Rs101 million, then to Rs96.3 million in 2016. However, the slide in his wealth has stalled since 2018.

Shireen Mazari, the former federal human rights minister who has been in the news for being named in an alleged land grabbing case involving some 800 kanals of land, has actually seen her assets decrease for much of the past decade. She had declared assets worth Rs118 million in 2013-14. By the time she filed asset declarations in 2019-20, her wealth had shrunk 35% to Rs77 million while she had a liability of Rs3.5 million.

Former interior and narcotics minister Ijaz Shah saw no change in his fortunes for the period he spent in the federal cabinet. His asset declarations of Rs44.4 million remained identical for 2018 and 2019-20.

PM’s wealthy aides

While his cabinet was full of ministers who can be considered wealthy when compared to the average Pakistani for whom they decided for - Pakistan has a per capita income of $1,250 or around Rs250,000. There are even some super-rich ministers.

However, even the former prime minister’s aides were amongst some of the richest men in the country.

The former prime minister’s special assistant on overseas Pakistanis, Zulfiqar Bukhari, was one of the richest members of the cabinet, owning declared assets worth Rs3.6 billion. Bukhari rubbed shoulders with a fellow special assistant for petroleum Nadeem Babar who had declared assets worth Rs2.8 billion.

Similarly, the former adviser on commerce and investment Razak Dawood had declared assets worth Rs1.8 billion owing to his past as one of the country’s biggest textile tycoons.

The former special assistant for power division Shahzad Qasim had declared holding a wealth of Rs600 million. He was followed by the former adviser on institutional reforms and a former governor of the State Bank, Dr Ishrat Hussain who had declared assets worth Rs532 million in 2019.

Prominent lawyer and a former adviser on parliamentary affairs, Babar Awan had declared assets worth Rs264 million.

Former special assistant on health and the virtual health minister Dr Faisal Sultan owned assets worth Rs133.4 million. The special assistant to the prime minister’s establishment division Shehzad Arbab had declared assets worth Rs132 million

One of the chief spokespersons of the former prime minister, special assistant on political communication Shahbaz Gill owns assets worth Rs118.5 million.

Called in from Washington for his strong grip on national security matters, the former special assistant on national security Dr Moeed Yusuf and his wife had declared assets worth Rs110 million. The sub-100 million valuation group included the special assistant on revenue Waqar Masood Khan who owned assets worth just Rs94 million.

One of the few youths included in the cabinet, Imran Khan’s special assistant on youth affairs Usman Dar declared assets worth Rs63 million.

Charged with retrieving the alleged billions stashed by Pakistani politicians abroad, the former prime minister’s adviser on accountability Shahzad Akbar and his wife had declared assets worth just Rs58 million.

The former assistant on parliamentary coordination Nadeem Afzal owned assets worth just Rs42 million, and the former special assistant on climate change Dr Amin Aslam owned assets worth Rs40 million while he also declared inherited landholdings of some 3,600 kanals.

The Islamabad native and the de facto mayor of the capital, the former special assistant on Capital Development Ali Nawaz Awan owned assets worth just Rs21 million in 2019-20.

Similarly, former special assistant Raoof Hassan owned assets worth just Rs15 million.

Leading the Ehsaas public welfare program, the former special assistant tasked with poverty alleviation, Dr Sania Nishtar owned assets worth Rs14 million. She was the poorest of all the prime minister’s aides.

Allies also saw mixed fortunes

It was not just members of the ruling party who saw their wealth increase during their time in office, cabinet members from allied parties also saw their assets increase in value.

Former federal minister Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Pakistan, had declared assets worth Rs31 million in 2015-16. But by the time he filed his declarations in 2019-20, he only had assets worth Rs11.4 million remaining, a drop of 63.2%.

Unlike his peers, former federal law minister Farogh Naseem and his children saw a meagre 12% increase in his assets. He had declared a wealth of Rs358.2 million in 2016-17 which rose to Rs400 million in 2019-20.

Other ministers

SAMAA TV has previously reported the wealth increases of key former members of Imran Khan’s cabinet, including former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and his wife - by 241% from 2014 to 2020; a 203% increase in wealth of former federal water minister Omar Ayub and his wife from 2013 to 2020; a 127% increase in assets of federal minister for commerce Khusro Bakhtiar from Rs109.3 million to Rs248.4 million in the past six years.

Further, former interior minister Sheikh Rashid’s wealth swelled by over 282% as he in his declarations revealed he got Rs100 million by selling land; former federal minister for railways Azam Swati witnessed an increase of 202% in his wealth; former federal education minister Shafqat Mahmood and his wife saw a 308% increase in wealth during 2019-20. Former federal interprovincial coordination minister Fehmida Mirza saw a 152% increase in wealth. Ex-federal minister Zobaida Jalal and her husband saw a thousand percent increase in their wealth to Rs116 million in 2019-20.

Similarly, former state minister Mahboob Sultan saw an 81% increase in his wealth from 2018 to 2020. Former federal housing and works minister Tariq Cheema saw a 51% increase in his wealth.

Imran Khan

PTI

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