Tuesday June 06, 2023

Fact check: Did the former first lady’s sister work for HEC from UAE?

February 24, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Did former first lady Bushra Bibi’s sister receive a hefty salary from Higher Education Commission (HEC) while living in UAE? Did she even work in person as a project coordinator in the HEC during Imran Khan’s government?

An organised campaign was launched against the sister of the former first lady on national television channels as well as on social media where it was propagated that Bushra Bibi’s sister Mariam Riaz Watto had received a hefty salary of up to Rs0.85 million per month. It was claimed that Ms Wattoo did not even bother to come to Pakistan or work in person at the HEC.

The News carried out a fact check of this viral propaganda to ascertain the facts. In order to verify whether the sister of the former first lady worked from Dubai or she actually came to Pakistan and performed her duties in person at the HEC head office in Islamabad.

The News contacted the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to know if she travelled to Pakistan during the tenure of her appointment as a coordinator of a world bank’s project with the HEC. The FIA source confirmed through her travel details that Ms Watto was in Pakistan during the period. Mariam Riaz Wattoo is a Canadian national and she travelled to Pakistan through her foreign passport instead of Pakistani travel documents. It can be also confirmed that Ms Watto was registered as a taxpayer in Pakistan when she accepted the job here at the HEC. Before that she was never a registered Pakistani taxpayer.

The News also contacted the Spokesperson of HEC Dr Ayesha Ikram to verify the facts if she worked in person or she never visited Pakistan during her tenure as a coordinator at the higher education commission. The spokesperson confirmed that Ms Wattoo has worked in person at the HEC and she was regular and punctual while working with the Commission. She had an office at the HEC and this is a wrong information that she never came to Pakistan and received the salary while living in UAE.

Mariam Riaz Wattoo was hired as a project coordinator of Higher Education Development in Pakistan (HEDP). Her core responsibilities as a project coordinator were to head the project coordination unit and to provide leadership and steer the implementation of the HDEP project of the World Bank.

The FIA officials, HEC spokesperson’s response and her tax registration during the time of her tenure as a project coordinator prove that the information about the sister of the former first lady are baseless and fall in the category of fake news.