Tania Aidrus, Dr Zafar Mirza resign as special assistants to prime minister

Aidrus says she's resigning 'in the greater public interest'; Zafar says he did so over 'ongoing negative discussion on role of SAPMs'

Web Desk

ISLAMABAD: In the backdrop of great public scrutiny over the matter of dual nationalities held by cabinet members, Tania Aidrus and Dr Zafar Mirza on Wednesday said that they have resigned from their posts as the special assistants to the prime minister (SAPM) on Digital Pakistan and National Health, respectively.

The resignations have been accepted by the prime minister.

The announcement came amid criticism levelled against several special assistants over possession of dual citizenship and after the list of assets they own was made public by the government.

Also read: Govt releases asset details of PM Imran’s special assistants, advisers

Ex-Google executive Aidrus, in a post on Twitter, said she was resigning “in the greater public interest” after she faced criticism for holding a Canadian nationality.

“Criticism levied towards the state as a consequence of my citizenship status is clouding the purpose of Digital Pakistan. In the greater public interest, I have submitted my resignation from the SAPM role," she wrote on Twitter.

"I will continue to serve my country and the PM’s vision to my best ability,” she added.

In her resignation letter to the prime minister, Aidrus said it had been an "honour and privilege" to serve him. “I returned to Pakistan with the singular intent to contribute and develop the vision of a Digital Pakistan, a concept which you have always voiced and I share.

“I always was and shall be a Pakistani,” she added.

Read more: Opposition flays PTI-led govt after dual nationalities of PM's aides revealed

The former special assistant said that she believes that the recent discourse about her Canadian nationality — which she said is a consequence of her birth — "is a distraction to my ability to execute on the long term vision for a Digital Pakistan".

“It is unfortunate that a Pakistani's desire to serve Pakistan is clouded by such issues,” Aidrus remarked.

“I shall continue to serve your vision and Pakistan through initiatives both in the private and public domain, where possible,” she added.

Former special assistant to prime minister on digital Pakistan Tania Aidrus (L) and former special assistant to prime minister on national health Dr Zafar Mirza. Geo.tv/Files

According to details released by the government earlier this month, Aidrus has four immovable properties held outside Pakistan — two in the US and one each in the UK and Singapore.

The properties, when converted to Pakistani rupees, have a value of Rs452.69 million. The ones in Singapore and the US are under mortgage.

The premier's aide has no property within Pakistan.

She has an investment in a venture capital worth Rs12.51 million and has declared remittances from foreign account to Pakistan worth $95,790.

Aidrus also has a bank balance in various accounts both in Pakistan and abroad worth Rs34.39 million, whereas her husband has cash in the bank worth Rs9.29 million in foreign accounts, the documents revealed.

Dr Zafar Mirza tenders resignation

Moments after Aidrus resigned, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza said he has tendered his resignation from the post today. 

The SAPM did not divulge further details regarding his resignation but said he is "satisfied to leave at a time when COVID-19 has declined in Pakistan as a result of a grand national effort".

In a subsequent tweet, Dr Mirza explained that "due to the ongoing negative discussion about the role of [special assistants] and criticism on the [government], I choose to resign. Pakistani people deserve a better health care."

He said he has "worked sincerely to contribute to this cause" and expressed confidence that the country will "emerge out of COVID-19 with a stronger health care system".

Dr Mirza owns assets worth Rs50.7 million, including a house worth Rs20 million and two plots worth Rs30 million. His wife has jewelry of approximately Rs2 million and the family owns furniture worth approximately Rs2 million.

His cash at bank accounts exceeds Rs1.3 million.

He has no other nationality.

PM wanted Mirza out

Separately, sources informed Geo News Wednesday evening that according to certain documents, Dr Mirza had played a role in illegally importing drugs from India despite a ban. He, alongside another adviser, were named during an inquiry carried out on the prime minister's orders.

PM Imran wanted to end the power of pharmaceutical companies to independently raise prices, the documents indicated, adding that the SAPM had failed to appoint heads of hospitals and medical institutions in Islamabad.

Dr Mirza had also withdrawn a summary curtailing the powers of pharmaceutical companies; however, it was submitted again on the premier's orders. The special assistant had opposed the summary in a Cabinet meeting earlier.

PM Imran, however, had approved a summary of pertaining to the pharmaceutical companies in the Cabinet, the sources added citing the documents. He had also wanted to remove Dr Mirza after the drug scandal but did not do so due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier, on August 9, 2019, the Cabinet had banned imports from India, the documents said. That decision was amended on August 25 by the Prime Minister's Office instead of the federal cabinet; however, the PM Office is not authorised to give such approvals in light of the Supreme Court's decision.

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce, Textiles, Industries, and Investment, Abdul Razak Dawood, then held a meeting with Dr Mirza.

The commerce ministry had written a letter to the Cabinet Division on August 24 for an amendment in the decision, the documents showed. According to the rules of nusiness, the Cabinet had to be approached within 24 hours for an amendment in the decision.

An inquiry of Dr Mirza's communication with Muhammad Ashraf — then the director general of the commerce ministry's Trade Policy — was completed. When questions were raised in the Cabinet, Dr Mirza had expressed ignorance.

Additional reporting by Ayaz Akbar Yousafzai in Islamabad