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December 10, 2020

ECP finds discrepancies in Hammad’s asset declarations

December 10, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is mulling action over some serious discrepancies observed during scrutiny of assets declaration by Federal Minister Hammad Azhar, first in his nomination papers and later as member parliament, senior officials said.

The top poll body says the minister, holding the portfolio of Production and Industries, did not declare his own shares in a flour mill and few other businesses in one of his declarations submitted to the ECP. However, after he became MNA in 2018 and later became a member of the cabinet, the assets declared by him and his spouse were different from those he had declared earlier, which prompted the ECP to launch the scrutiny some two years back. “Our [ECP’s] team found an apparent mis-declaration, serious discrepancies and deficiencies in Hammad’s declarations, and he failed to explain his position before the electoral body scrutinising his and his wife’s assets and liabilities,” said a senior ECP official familiar with the development. The official, who declined to be named, claimed non-declaration includes shares (owned by his spouse) in Green Flour Mills Pvt Ltd, AFCO Steel Industries, AFCO Metal and agricultural and non-agricultural property. The official record of the Greens Mills Pvt Ltd viewed by the Geo News stated that Mariam Sattar (Mariam Hammad) is one of three partners in the M/S Greens Flour Mills Pvt Ltd Multan since commencement of its business. Majid Fakhari and Malik Muhammad Abbas Buppi were also partners in this mill established in 2006. Among deficiencies/missing information like the minister’s partnership in the Green Flour Mills Pvt Ltd and owning some other assets (declared in minister’s B-Form submitted before the returning officer of NA-126 Lahore on June 12, 2018) were not reported before the ECP in 2018-2019, disclosed another ECP official familiar with the issue. The minister as an aspirant showed this Green Mills in his B-Form (declaration) submitted with the returning officer of NA-126 Lahore on June 12, 2018 in the name of his spouse, Mariam Hammad, said the official. Neither the minister nor his wife mentioned the name of the said Greens Mills in their declaration submitted to the ECP for the tax year 2018-19, claimed the ECP official, adding that both however disclosed the name of the said flour mill in their declarations for the tax year 2019-20. The ECP scrutiny committee observed those discrepancies and deficiencies in his declarations in April 2019 and then he was asked to explain his position in May 2019. The list of discrepancies and omissions in the minister’s declaration seem quite serious; according to the ECP’s notice, the scrutiny committee compared the two declarations of the minister where it transpired that “there was a decrease in assets of Rs 30.7 million from the previous year [2018] which is 9.91% in terms of percentage and was mainly due to not declaring the business capital in AFCO Steel Industries (Rs 284.7 million) and AFCO Metal (Rs 29.7 million) in his (minister’s) statement for the year 2018.” The ECP also sought documentary proof and legal justification of Hammad Azhar on his agricultural land worth Rs 4.6 million in Vehari, read the notice served on the minister in May 2019. The ECP sought documentary proof and legal justification of his non-business residential property worth Rs 65.8 million, 90- Marla plot of Rs 13.6 million, 91-Marla plot of Rs 13.5 million, 60 Marlas of Rs 9 million and 36 Kanals worth Rs 9 million in Wapda Town (Phase III), Multan, the notice stated. The ECP notice further questioned “the new assets declared [by the minister] under moveable assets in business capital for Rs 17 million mentioned in Form-B of nomination papers in 2018, being without any justification”. “Justification is required regarding a new bank account in the Meezan Bank without mentioning its account no and details of the bank declared on Form-B as a mutual fund amount of Rs 140 million. An amount of Rs 10 million debt receivable from the HM Enterprises declared in the statement for the year 2018, which needed to be justified through supportive documents,” read the notice. Details of 500 shares in the Pakistan Telecommunication Company Ltd and 100 shares in the Maple Leaf Cement Factory Ltd were also missing in Form B submitted to the returning officer in 2018, according to ECP officials. “All immovable properties i.e. agricultural and non-agricultural property declared in the statement for the year 2017 are missing in declaration for the subsequent year 2018. Justification and details of the same are required,” read the notice issued in May 2019. After passage of many months and one reminder, Hammad Azhar responded to the ECP notice in writing but his reply was declared “unsatisfactory” by the scrutiny committee, said senior officials. Hammad Azhar told the Geo News that the ECP perhaps did not publish his last year’s complete declaration. He confirmed that the ECP sent him a notice for reconciliation and claimed he had satisfied the poll body by response/ explanation on this issue. “The affidavit submitted by me at the time of submission of documents to the ECP Lahore only required separate disclosure of shares where I own majority/ controlling interest in the company as per explanation (II) of the affidavit. This nominal amount of investment is included in net assets as required by the ECP Lahore. My wife still owns investment in M/s Green Mills Pvt Ltd and this investment is also properly disclosed in its FBR Returns (Page 3) 2018 and 2019 and form-B 2018 and 2019 submitted by me to the ECP Islamabad. The shares of the PTCL and the Maple Leaf are properly disclosed in my FBR returns 2018 and 2019 and Form-B 2018 and 2019 submitted by me to the ECP Islamabad,” said the minister. An ECP spokesperson confirmed that the poll body was probing discrepancies and irregularities found in Hammad’s declarations. “The ECP has already published assets of parliamentarians. The subject matter is subjudice before the commission. Therefore no comments can be made,” he said while responding to Geo News queries. A former ECP secretary said proceedings can be started under Section 167 of (Chapter X) of the Elections Act 2017 for false statements or declarations. “If a member hides assets or misrepresents facts, proceedings against him could be initiated under corrupt practices under Section 137 of the Elections Act 2017, every member of an assembly and Senate shall submit to the commission a copy of his statement of assets and liabilities including assets and liabilities of his spouse and dependent children. It is compulsory for parliamentarians to submit annual statements of their assets to the ECP,” observed former ECP secretary Kanwar Dilshad.