Saturday, January 14, 2023

Journalist allegedly involved in Gen Bajwa's tax data leak sent on physical remand

"There is evidence against Shahid Aslam which shows that the suspect was leaking information," prosecutor alleges

Journalist Shahid Aslam. — Twitter/@ShahidAslam87
Journalist Shahid Aslam. — Twitter/@ShahidAslam87
  • Prosecutor says suspect was getting information from FBR. 
  • Says Aslam was providing tax information to foreigners.
  • However, journalist denies all charges against him. 

ISLAMABAD: A court Saturday remanded Shahid Aslam — the reporter suspected of leaking tax data of former army chief Gen (retd) Qamar Javed Bajwa's family members — to the custody of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for two days. 

Judicial Magistrate Umar Shabbir of a district and sessions court announced the verdict — reserved a while back — and handed over the journalist to the FIA. 

During the hearing, the prosecutor said that Aslam was arrested by the agency yesterday. He added that the suspect was allegedly getting information from the Federal Board of Revenue of Pakistan (FBR). 

"There is evidence against Shahid Aslam which shows that the suspect was leaking information," said the prosecutor. 

Meanwhile, the suspect denied all the charges against him, saying that there was no evidence against him as he has done nothing wrong.

In response, Aslam said that he has been covering FBR stories for a long time. "I am a journalist and I know my professional duties," he added. 

The prosecutor questioned why Aslam was not providing the password for his laptop. The judge remarked that it was not wrong to get information as a journalist. 

At this, the prosecutor said that the suspects involved in leaking FBR information have repeatedly named Aslam. In response, Aslam's counsel said the court should determine whether Aslam was arrested through a proper procedure or not.

"Can the statements provided by the suspects — arrested earlier in connection with the leak — be authentic?" questioned the counsel. 

He said that it was not right to arrest Aslam on the basis of the mere statements from suspects, adding that he has been under arrest by the FIA for the last 24 hours. 

The lawyer asked the court to discharge the case against the journalist. 

After hearing arguments from both sides, the judge then sent the journalist on a two-day physical remand.

The issue 

On November 21, 2022, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar took notice of the "illegal and unwarranted" leakage of tax information Gen (retd) Bajwa's family. 

"This is clearly a violation of the complete confidentiality of tax information that the law provides," a statement from the Finance Division read.

A day later, Dar shared that he has received the interim report related to the leak of Gen (retd) Bajwa’s income tax records, adding that the authorities have traced some people involved in the act.

The finance czar shared that one person involved in the leak is from Lahore and another from Rawalpindi.

However, he added that there is a possibility that some of the individuals involved may have the authorisation to look at the income tax records as there is a "circle" in Rawalpindi where assessments take place.

Later on December 2, 2022, the FBR suspended two officers — Zahoor Ahmed and Atif Nawaz Warraich — for four months for their alleged involvement in the data leakage.  They are now facing charges.