Financial disclosures: Most legislators fail to admit owning foreign assets (The Express Tribune (Pakistan))

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Nearly 61% of legislators have declined to answer “whether they have propertyassets abroad or not” on their financial disclosure forms submitted to the Election Commission of Pakistan, according to an analysis conducted by The Express Tribune.Of the 1,173 legislators elected at either the provincial or federal level, 715 either dodged the question on the form or left it blank. The question does not ask details of those properties, merely asking for a “yes” or “no” answer. The 715 who refused to answer include many who have openly mentioned owning assets abroad at public appearances. Of those who answered the question, only 24 admitted to owning assets outside Pakistan. No legislator from Balochistan or Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa was among those who admitted to owning foreign assets.
Most legislators do not take their financial disclosure forms seriously. More than 80% legislators did not answer the question asking them whether “their income decreased or increased during the last fiscal year.” Jamshed Dasti, an independent member of the National Assembly, did not bother filling out the form at all, leaving it completely blank.
The total value of the foreign assets declared by the 24 legislators who did admit to owning them was estimated to be Rs1.4 billion. Of that amount, Rs620 million is owned by six MNAs, Rs62 million by four senators, Rs500 million by seven members of the Punjab Assembly and Rs215 million by seven members of the Sindh Assembly.
Muddassir Rizvi, CEO of the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN), said that the ECP should require legislators to fulfill their legal obligations to complete these disclosures. “The ECP should scrutinise these documents to determine their accuracy and should not act like a post office,” said Rizvi.
Kanwar Dilshad, former ECP secretary, concurred. “It is the responsibility of ECP to strictly scrutinise the asset declarations of legislators,” he said.
Senator Farhatullah Babar said: “If any member does not declare his/her immoveable and moveable assets, then it is dishonesty with parliament.” Babar himself declared that he had no assets abroad, though he cited “remittances from abroad” as the source of income for much of his assets.
Senator Rehman Malik, who is among the few legislators to declare values of assets held abroad, said: “Action must be taken against those legislators who hide their assets, no matter whether they are within the country or abroad.”
Of the legislators who do own assets abroad, real estate in the UK and the UAE appear to be some of the most popular choices for assets.
Of the four senators who own assets abroad, Rehman Malik owns Rs3.39 million worth of assets in the UK, Ghulam Nabi Bangash owns property worth Rs25 million in the UAE, Abbas Afridi owns a business worth around Rs23 million in Afghanistan and Dubai, and Jaffar Iqbal shared a house worth Rs9 million with his wife in the UK.
The six MNAs who have assets abroad are Malik Asad, who owns a flat in Bangkok worth Rs110 million, Jaffar Iqbal owns a flat and taxi licence worth around Rs26 million in Norway, Basit Bokhari has shares in Kando Transport Company abroad worth Rs0.8 million, Sohail Mansoor owns two flats in the UAE, one in London and three in Canada worth Rs71 million, Amir Hoti took remittances worth Rs8 million from the UAE and Pir Sadruddin Shah’s family owns a palace abroad worth Rs186 million.
The seven MPAs from Punjab who own property are Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, who has two properties worth Rs153 million in London, Chaudhry Lal, who owns property worth Rs170 million in UK, Amir Inyat owns property worth Rs3 million in the UAE, Abdul Qadeer Alvi owns property worth Rs8 million in the UAE, Ali Raza owns a one bedroom flat worth Rs60 million in London, Ihsanul Haq owns a family suite worth Rs70 million in Dubai and Omer Jaffer shares a family suite worth Rs10 million with his wife in London.
The MPAs from Sindh who own foreign assets: Masroor Ahmed and his wife own property worth Rs17 million abroad, Faseeh Ahmed owns a flat worth Rs18 million in Dubai, Nadir Ali owns a house worth Rs9 million in the United States, Makhdoom Rafique owns property worth Rs35 million in Middlesex UK, Shirjeel Memon owns two Dubai flats that cost Rs25 million and his wife owns a Dubai villa that costs Rs99 million, Awais Muzafar and his wife own two flats worth Rs5 million in Dubai, Muhammad Abdul owns business worth Rs2 million in Madinah and Irfanullah Khan owns property worth Rs1 million abroad.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 23rd, 2015.