In an unforeseen development on Tuesday, Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s key aide Lt Gen (retd.) Asim Saleem Bajwa stepped down as the CPEC Authority chairman. Launched in 2015, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is the flagship project of China’s Belt and Road Initiative which was aimed at bringing massive investment from China and creating thousands of job opportunities for the people of Pakistan. In October 2019, the Pakistan government created the CPEC Authority via an ordinance despite vehement criticism from the opposition to ensure timely completion of the CPEC projects.
Bajwa, who headed Pakistan Armed Forces’ media wing Inter-Services Public Relations from 2012 to 2016, took charge of the CPEC Authority in November 2019. While he was also appointed as Khan’s special advisor on Information and Broadcasting in April 2020, he resigned from this post in October last year for being accused of corruption. Thanking the Pakistan PM for his support, he affirmed, “CPEC is lifeline for Pakistan, it will transform us into a progressive and fully developed country”.
He had been replaced by Khalid Manzoor who has been appointed as the Special Assistant to the Pakistan PM on CPEC Affairs. Manzoor is believed to have vast corporate experience and has dealt with Chinese companies before. This key change comes as at a juncture when many CPEC projects have been stalled due to Pakistan’s dire economic situation and non-cooperation of the bureaucracy due to the prevailing fear of the National Accountability Bureau. Moreover, debt-ridden Pakistan requested Beijing to forgive debt liabilities owed to China-funded energy projects established under the CPEC.
I bow my head before Allah Almighty for giving me an opportunity to raise & steer the important institution of CPEC Authority as one window for all CPEC projects, charting the future direction. Wouldn’t have been possible without full confidence& support of the PM & his Govt-1/2 — Asim Saleem Bajwa (@AsimSBajwa) August 3, 2021
Asim Bajwa under fire over business empire
As per a report published by Pakistani journalist Ahmad Noorani on the ‘Fact Focus’ portal on August 27, 2020, the growth of the business empire of Asim Bajwa’s family has a direct correlation to the retired Armyman’s rising career graph. For instance, it alleged that Bajwa’s younger brothers opened their first Papa John’s pizza restaurant in 2002 when he was working closely with then Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf. The report claimed that his wife, brothers and two sons owned 99 companies in 4 countries including a pizza franchise worth 39.9 million US dollars.
Highlighting the hypocrisy of the Pakistani elite, the journalist added that these companies spent 52.2 million US dollars to develop their businesses in the US at a time when investment is not forthcoming in Pakistan. According to Noorani, he had not disclosed information about his wife’s properties abroad while declaring his assets and liabilities as Special Assistant to the Pakistan PM. In September 2020, the Pakistan Democratic Movement- an alliance of opposition parties had called for Bajwa to be removed as the CPEC Authority chairman until a probe into these charges is completed.