–Says Bukhari ‘fit for the job’, no law stops him from assuming charge as premier’s special assistant
ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Media Iftikhar Durrani on Wednesday defended the appointment of Syed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari as the premier’s special assistant after the party was criticised by politicians and sections of the media.
Zulfi Bukhari, as he is popularly known, is a close friend and aide of Prime Minister Imran Khan and was appointed as a special assistant for overseas Pakistanis and human resource development with a status of minister of state.
Durrani said Bukhari is a respected citizen with the required credentials to execute the job. When asked why an individual with active National Accountability Bureau (NAB) inquiries was given the position, Durrani maintained that Bukhari is being subjected to political victimisation over allegations moved by the previous government.
“Bukhari is close to and is comfortable with the prime minister,” he said.
“It will be unfair to remove him from office until an actual reference is filed,” said Durrani and assured that Bukhari will step down if he is implicated. He further emphasised that the government takes corruption references “seriously”.
Criticising Bukhari’s appointment, former Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Fauzia Kasuri took to Twitter and said that she had surrendered her US citizenship in 2013 to contest an intra-party election.
She also asked on what grounds are PTI leaders and those close to the premier allowed to hold positions in the government as dual nationals.
Responding to Kasuri’s claim, Durrani said that a special assistant to the premier is not a legislator and such an action is permitted by law.
The PTI leader also denied that the appointment was made due to nepotism or cronyism as “he’s [Bukhari] is fit for the job and would be able to convince the PM on important issues.”
NAB AFTER ZULFI BUKHARI:
Bukhari is a close aide to the prime minister and was in charge of the PTI chairman’s campaign in NA-53 for the July 25, 2018 elections. A dual British-Pakistani national, his name was placed on the Exit Control List (ECL) by the Interior Ministry in August on a request of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
He is accused of owning off-shore companies in the British Virgin Islands and owning assets beyond his known source of income, according to NAB.
In August this year, he had appeared before the NAB’s three-member inquiry team where he was questioned for almost two hours.
Bukhari had come into the limelight earlier this year when he was stopped by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) at Nur Khan Airbase while accompanying Khan to Saudi Arabia because his name was on the Interior Ministry’s blacklist. However, the ministry allowed him to travel abroad minutes later.
Upon his return, Bukhari filed a petition before the Islamabad High Court seeking the removal of his name from the blacklist. The court accepted his petition and ordered the removal of his name from the blacklist.
A week later, the court was informed by the interior ministry that Bukhari was placed on the blacklist as a precautionary measure in response to a request from NAB to include his name on the ECL, because the subcommittee tasked with approving the inclusion of names in the ECL was dysfunctional at the time the request was sent.
The IHC subsequently allowed the interior ministry to proceed with NAB’s request to place Bukhari on the ECL.
Moreover, despite having a dual nationality, Pakistani law doesn’t bar Zulfi from assuming the office of special assistant to prime minister because he is not a parliamentarian.
IMRAN DEFENDS ZULFI:
Earlier, PM Khan had defended Zulfi in a TV interview, saying that the NAB has no jurisdiction to probe him [Zulfi] since all his business is based in the UK.
“If Zulfi Bukhari’s name has appeared in the Panama papers, it is not NAB’s job to investigate him. UK’s inland revenue authorities should be investigating him since all his business is located over there.”
The anchor asked Khan if he knew the nature of Zulfi’s business to which the now PM said he had no idea what his friend for the last seven years did for a living.