The Pakistani social media on Sunday erupted after the PTI-led regime decided to release a list of estates and assets, as well as nationality details, of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s unelected special assistants and advisers in a bid to boost “transparency”.
The journalist community — which has been severely hit financially by the incumbent government’s policies towards the media — responded with tongue-in-cheek ‘asset disclosures’ of their own in a bid to contrast the average citizen’s wealth (or lack thereof) with the wealth of those in power.
Journalist Ahmad Noorani said he was disclosing his assets “in the interest of transparency”, along with fellow journalists Talat Aslam and Israr Khan.
The journalists’ disclosures highlighted the financial stress many individuals in the profession are under, with most struggling from paycheck to paycheck.
While the unelected office-bearers reported hundreds of millions of rupees’ worth of properties and cars, many senior journalists — who have often borne the brunt of online hate campaigns for having contrarian views — reported that they had nothing to their name.
The disclosures also prompted some to question the prime minister’s own position on the matter of dual nationalities in the past. Journalist Anas Mallick wondered what exactly Prime Minister Imran Khan’s strategy would be after seven of his own advisors were revealed to be foreign residents.
“Wonder whats his stance now?”
Columnist Mosharraf Zaidi had a different perspective, saying those who should be facing the music were still sitting comfortably in the cabinet while the prime minister threw his advisers under the bus.
Some brought up the matter that it was a national security concern that dual nationals were sitting in in top-level meetings on highly-sensitive matters.
“They have no stake in Pakistan and will fly out the day they lose office.”
Journalist Amber Rahim Shamsi pointed out that the concern over conflict of interest was a valid and long running one, recalling that the same concerns had been present when ministers in past governments had been found to be holding iqamahs (Saudi visa).
Some also defended Dr Moeed Yusuf, the SAPM on the National Security, who had invited the most scrutiny due to his sensitive portfolio.
After he clarified that he had never held any other nationality other than Pakistani, many came to his defense, calling out critics for instigating a “political witch hunt” by pointing a finger at him.
Author and former focal person for English media to Punjab information minister, Mehr Tarar, defended those holding dual citizenship, saying they “return to Pakistan to serve their country”.
“Their appointments to top governmental positions are done after thorough scrutiny, making their credentials beyond doubt. Quit passing judgements,” she wrote.
Some reminded the prime minister of his own strong views regarding dual nationals serving in positions of power, using the disclosures to hold him to account for apparently not practicing what he so firmly believed in not so long ago.
Senior columnist and Geo News analyst Mazhar Abbas suggested that Prime Minister Imran Khan “should give option to dual national adviser and Special Assistants to surrender their foreign nationality if they want retain their position”.
“Let see how many will surrender their US, UK or Canadian nationality,” he added.
Opposition lawmakers also came out in full force, with many demanding that those holding a dual nationality be asked to resign.
PPP General Secretary Nafeesa Shah expressed concern over members holding dual nationalities being a part of meetings where sensitive information is discussed.
“What will Prime Minister Imran Khan do now,” Shah asked in her statement. “Those who used to criticize others for owning properties abroad have now been found to have properties themselves.”
She also noted that petroleum adviser Babar Nadeem having shares in corporate entities created a conflict of interest.
Senior PPP leader Sherry Rehman also hit out at the prime minister, saying dual nationals could not be members of the Parliament.
“In the past, Imran Khan was strictly against those holding dual nationality. The prime minister is taking another u-turn,” Rehman said in a video message.
“It would be a matter of great concern if it is found that the prime minister was not aware of this [the dual nationality of his advisers],” she added.
PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb called for the immediate resignation of those holding dual nationalities.
“Imran Khan, you once said those who hold dual nationalities or passports cannot sit in Parliament: how can you now let the same people make decisions for the people of this country,” she asked.
“Those who have foreign passports should not be allowed to be a part of the Cabinet,” she added.