Monday December 11, 2023

Court sends journalist on physical remand in Gen Bajwa's tax data leak case

Court hands over suspect, journalist Shahid Aslam, to FIA for two days

January 14, 2023
Journalist Shahid Aslam. — Twitter/@ShahidAslam87
Journalist Shahid Aslam. — Twitter/@ShahidAslam87

ISLAMABAD: A district and sessions court on Saturday sent the suspect on two-day physical remand in the case of "illegal and unwarranted" leak of tax information of former army chief General (retd) Qamar Javed Bajwa's family members — for two days.

Suspected journalist Shahid Aslam was handed over to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) after Judicial Magistrate Umar Shabbir announced the reserved verdict on the agency's plea seeking remand.

"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 case

On November 21, 2022, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar took notice of the "illegal and unwarranted" leakage of tax information of 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 they 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.