• Bajwa family business empire grew in four countries in sync with Asim Bajwa’s rise in military

    Bajwa family business empire grew in four countries in sync with Asim Bajwa’s rise in military

    The image shows Lt Gen (R) Asim Saleem Bajwa, sons Muhammad Saleem Bajwa, Eusha Saleem Bajwa, Azib Saleem Bajwa, and wife Farrukh Zeba

    Asim declared on oath his wife has no ‘business capital outside Pakistan’

    The growth of the Bajwa family’s business empire in the United States and later in Pakistan directly matches the rise in power of retired general Asim Saleem Bajwa, who is now chairman of the country’s massive China-financed infrastructure project and a special assistant to the prime minister.

    Asim Bajwa’s younger brothers opened their first Papa John’s pizza restaurant in 2002, the year he went to work for General Pervez Musharraf as a lieutenant colonel on the military dictator’s staff.

    Nadeem Bajwa, 53, who started as a delivery driver for the pizza restaurant franchise, his brothers and Asim Bajwa’s wife and sons now own a business empire which set up 99 companies in four countries, including a pizza franchise with 133 restaurants worth an estimated $39.9 million. Out of total 99 companies, 66 are main companies, 33 companies are branch companies of some of the main companies while five companies are dead now.

    The Bajwa family’s companies spent an estimated $52.2 million to develop their businesses and $14.5 million to purchase properties in the United States, while Asim Bajwa and his department were encouraging Pakistanis to invest within their relatively undeveloped country. The businesses of the Bajwa family through different companies were named as Bajco Group.

    Asim Bajwa’s sons joined the Bajco Group companies in 2015 and also started establishing new companies independent of the Bajco Group in Pakistan and in the United States after he became director general of ISPR and commander of the Southern Command.

    Asim’s wife was a shareholder in all the foreign businesses from the very beginning. At present, Asim’s wife, Farrukh Zeba, is associated with or is a shareholder in 85 companies including 82 foreign companies (71 in United States, seven in UAE and four in Canada). The records of US state governments and other records related to companies show that some of these American companies (all jointly owned by Asim’s wife Farrukh Zeba) also have investments in real estate sector and own some thirteen commercial properties in the United States including two shopping centers. Estimated current net worth of businesses and properties of these companies jointly owned by Farrukh Zeba stands at $52.7 million.

    In his declaration of assets and liabilities signed in June as special assistant to Prime Minister Imran Khan, Asim Bajwa declared an investment of $18,468 (rupees 3.1 million) in his wife’s name. Asim declared that he and his wife have no “Immovable Property Held outside Pakistan”. Asim also categorically declared that neither he nor his wife have any “Business Capital outside Pakistan”. If in his declaration, Asim wanted to declare his wife’s investments in United States by writing Rs3.1 million in the column of “Investments”, he could never have written word “NIL” in the specific column “Business Capital Outside Pakistan”. Asim Bajwa, 57, is also now the chairman of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

    Images of the relevant portions of Declaration of Assets and Liabilities submitted by Lt Gen Bajwa as Special Assistant to Prime Minister Imran Khan

    Family Background:

    The six Bajwa brothers and their three sisters came from a middle-class family in a small town in Southern Punjab that was struck by tragedy while they were still young.

    Their father, Muhammad Saleem Bajwa, a medical doctor, started as a government employee in early 1950s and then in 1960 joined Millat Hospital, a small private hospital in Sadikabad. Bajwa was shot to death on Nov. 25, 1976 while traveling on a Karachi express train.

    His family’s assets at the time of his death included a few acres of agricultural land, a house in Sadiqabad, shares in a pharmaceutical company, and some shops in the city. Their father’s brother had to help them pay for family expenses.

    The two eldest sons, Tanvir and Taloot went on to become doctors like their father and practiced in different cities of Punjab. The third son, Asim joined the army in 1984. Two brothers Nadeem and Faisal came to the United States in the early 1990s after completing their education from Punjab University in Lahore. The youngest brother, Abdul Malik, 49, went to the U.S. in 2002.

    Management of worldwide businesses through a parent company:

    In 2007, a few months after Asim Bajwa’s promotion to brigade rank by the military dictator, the Bajco companies were brought under the umbrella of one parent company, Bajco Global Management LLC, which was registered in the United States and Pakistan (liaison office). The official documents of this parent company show that Asim Bajwa’s wife, Farrukh Zeba, is an equal shareholder in the businesses of Bajco Group along with his five brothers. Farrukh Zeba is a housewife with no known business experience.

    Details of equal share distribution of Bajco Group

    Signature page of Operating Agreement

    Fact Focus Database of 99 Companies Set up by Bajwa family along with all the relevant documents

    Asim declined to respond to Fact Focus when asked through different WhatsApp messages and a Twitter post if there are any bank accounts maintained in the name of his wife in the United States, and why he declared that he and his wife have no business capital outside Pakistan.

    The changing websites

    The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, the organization which regulates companies in Pakistan, started deleting data of companies owned by the sons of Asim Bajwa from its official website after Fact Focus started this investigation. Fact Focus has maintained dated digital footprints of the record tempering by SECP.

    In first week of August, Bajco Group website bajco.net went offline and later came online with a new interface and data. In the previous version of the website, the Bajco Group showed only 58 franchises of Papa John’s pizza restaurants in the U.S. and Canada and was not showing its investments in real estate. After questions about the assets were raised on social media and from Fact Focus, the Bajco Group started updating the website and partially revealed its real estate holdings publicly for the first time. Fact Focus is releasing complete details of all real estate properties acquired so far by the Bajco Group.

    Year-wise detail of setting up of Franchises along with estimated investment

    Click here to check other details of franchises in United states like addresses etc.

    However, the updated website had not acknowledged the investments of Bajco Group and its associated enterprises in Pakistan until Aug. 25. These enterprises include investments in the human resource and telecom sectors of Pakistan. The website was being changed often in subsequent days. A complete track of the website, the digital footprint, was saved by Fact Focus. Also the old website still accessible via the internet archive Web Archive. Now the Bajco, according to the company’s new website, “has grown to become the largest privately held franchisee of Papa John’s International.” 

    Social Media responses by the Bajwa family:

    Abdul Malik Bajwa, the president of the Bajco Group and brother of Asim Bajwa, stated on his Twitter account (@MalikBajwa) that neither Asim Bajwa nor the general’s sons are involved in Bajco.

    Contrary to the claims, official documents obtained by Fact Focus from the government of UAE confirmed that a son of Asim has an association with Bajco Group Companies in the UAE (Document are annexed in the companies database given below). Furthermore, Bajwa’s wife is an equal shareholder with his five brothers in the parent company Bajco Global Management and co-owns 84 foreign companies in the United States, UAE, and Canada. The names of other Bajwa brothers are Tanvir, Taloot, Faisal, Nadeem and Abdul Malik. So both the claims made by Bajco Group president were not factual.

    ‘Indian attack on CPEC and role of RAW’

    After questions were raised about Bajwa’s family business empire, a campaign on print and social media was launched to connect those asking questions with India’s foreign intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). Questions about properties of the former general’s family in the U.S. were termed as an attack on the CPEC project and a conspiracy by India, allegations with no basis in fact. Asim’s son specifically tweeted blogs and pictures portraying author of this story as working for Indian agency RAW and becoming part of India’s attack on CPEC.

    Commercial properties and real estate companies in the United States

    Other than the residential properties bought by members of Bajwa family, Bajco Group also purchased and developed more than a dozen commercial properties, including two shopping centers from 2014 onward having total worth of $12.8 million. Bajco Group also has separate venture funding and international investment companies. Other than the name Bajco, companies with the names of Jalco, SB Global Investments, BRV Holding, and different companies with BRV names were established after 2012 under the umbrella of Bajco Group for investments in the real estate sector.

    Annual Growth of Companies, franchises and properties almost all partially or fully owned by wives and sons (Graph)

    [Hover the mouse over the graph line to check the values and details every year. It is better to observe the graph by switching to full-screen mode using button in bottom right corner. On the mobile, touch the graph line at any place to check the values and details of the corresponding year. Touch again to removed the pop up small window.]

    Other investments by Sons, wife and brothers of Lt Gen (R) Bajwa:

    Three sons of Asim Bajwa — Muhammad, Eusha, and Azib — have direct and absolute ownership of companies in the sectors of mining, construction, marketing, real estate, beverages, fashion and cosmetic manufacturing and investments in Pakistan and three companies in the U.S which include two companies in the real estate sector.

    Farrukh Zeba is also an equal shareholder in Bajco Group’s companies in Pakistan in telecom sector e.g.  Bajco Telecom and Fast Telecom. Bajco Group has business operations in Pakistan but it hasn’t yet acknowledged it even on its new website.

    The family also runs a Labor and Manpower services company in Pakistan by the name of Silkline Enterprises (owned by brothers Dr. Tanvir, Dr. Taloot and his son) which is also an associated enterprise of Bajco Group. This company was set up when Asim was commander of the Southern Command. Dr. Taloot’s son Ammar owns a public opinion polls and research company, Transcendent. Fact Focus couldn’t reach Tanvir and Taloot for their comments.

    Independent of the Bajco Group, Asim’ three sons also own the following companies in Pakistan: a mining company named Krypton, a beverages company named Himalaya Waters (..Himalaya Waters..), fashion and cosmetics manufacturing and retail companies Emels Allure and Mochi Cordwaners, the marketing company Advanced Marketing, real estate development companies Scion Builders & Estates and Scion Builders LLP LLP LLP.

    All these companies were set up after 2015 when Asim was either director general Inter-Services Public Relations (DG-ISPR) or was the commander of the Southern Command, a key position in the mineral-rich province of Balochistan. As DG-ISPR (The army’s media and public relation’s wing), Asim’s tenure was marred with multiple examples of curbing the press freedom. News channels critical to military’s political policies were shut down on cable networks (the only medium of distribution of channels in Pakistan) across the country. The strategy and techniques adopted to suppress press freedom during his tenure were witnessed for the first time in the country’s history.

    Asim’s two elder sons, Eusha and Muhammad, also set up companies in the United States, which include Hyperdrive Solutions (set up in 2016 when he was DG-ISPR) and Scion Management Group (set up in 2018 when he was commander, Southern Command) and Scion Natura (set up in 2020).

    Farrukh Zeba companies (in orange) and Sons’ companies (in blue) (Graph)

    Hover the mouse over the graph lines to check values in corresponding years.

    His son Muhammad’s name also appears in the incorporation documents of three (out of total seven) Bajco Group companies in the UAE along with the name of Abdul Malik. These companies were set up in 2015 and 2016 when Asim was DG-ISPR and one company was set up in 2019 when Asim was commander, southern command.

    Eusha’s name started appearing as “Authorized Agent” in the annual statements of five different Bajco Group companies in the U.S. since 2018. Before 2018, the name of his uncle Nadeem Bajwa appeared in the annual statements in the same capacity. Eusha is not shown as managing member in any documents of the companies owned by his mother and uncles.

    Eusha purchased two residential properties in his name in the U.S. state of Ohio in June and August of 2018 when Asim was commander of Southern Command. Eusha, 32, co-owns companies in the U.S. and Pakistan but never registered himself with the tax authorities in Pakistan, according to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).

    A picture of Eusha home in Canfield, Ohio, United States

    Asim’s mother, Fazeelat Muaab, has for years owned 5,000 shares in Sharex Laboratories (out 108,852 total shares issued by the company). These shares were never declared with FBR, the record shows. Different members of Bajwa family used to acquire and surrender or transfer shares of Sharex Laboratories in the past. This pharmaceutical company is not mentioned in Fact Focus database of companies as members of Bajwa family possessed a little percentage of the total shares of the company.

    The following summary shows the parallels between Asim Bajwa’s rise to military/civilian power and his brothers rise in business power.

    1984 – 2001

    Asim Bajwa: second lieutenant in the Army, rises to lieutenant colonel

    Bajwa Family: no considerable investment or company ownerships

    2002 — 2008

    Asim Bajwa: joins dictator Musharraf’s staff

    Bajwa Family: starts 53 pizza franchises worth an estimated $16 million, registers 19 companies in U.S., two in Pakistan, four in Canada.

    2009 — 2011

    Asim Bajwa: After Musharraf resigns, he first served as staff officer to a corps commander and then after being promoted as major general as a district commander, there is a promotion but a reduction in power as compare to his position with Musharraf

    Bajwa Family:  starts 25 franchises worth $7.5 million, five U.S. companies

    2012 — 2016

    Asim Bajwa: Elevated to director general, ISPR

    Bajwa Family: starts 75 franchises worth $22.5 million, 34 companies in U.S., three in Pakistan, six in UAE, seven commercial properties and two residential properties purchased for $3.1 million.

    2017 — 2020

    Asim Bajwa: Promoted to commander, Southern Command

    Bajwa Family:  21 franchises worth $6.3 million, 16 new companies in U.S., nine in Pakistan, one in UAE; six commercial properties and two residential properties for $7.4 million (sons of Asim start setting up companies and buying properties the U.S. and Pakistan). After construction of a commercial building on one of these six commercial properties, the total worth of properties made in this duration stands at $11.2 Million. The purchase price of one property purchased by Eusha cannot be confirmed so in not included in this total.

    Detail of commercial and residential properties purchased by the Bajwa family in United States along with relevant documents

    Posting-wise data of investments, companies, Restaurant Franchises, properties.

    Hover the mouse over the graph bars to check values and complete data of corresponding tenure. You can enter a specific tenure from the top right drop-down menu to check the values of a specif tenure of posting.

    Table of details of numbers of companies and franchises and total investments made during different postings

    Asim Bajwa’s adult sons started setting up companies and buying properties in the U.S. and Pakistan during this period. From the time he retired from the military in September 2019 until now, Bajco Group set up zero new companies, although his sons set up one real estate company in the U.S. and one in Pakistan.

    Here is a timeline of developments that took place during last 70 years

    Please press the Full Screen Button to view the Timeline in Full Screen view. Similar color boxes above and below the timeline shows investments in corresponding posting tenures.

    Editor’s Notes:

    Regarding the initial investments: The Bajco Group purchased its first two franchises in 2002 and bought three more in 2004. For this an investment of at least $1.5 million was required, Fact Focus estimates. The Bajco Group did not respond to our questions of how this initial investment was arranged, and how subsequent investments were made possible. In 2006 and 2007, Bajco Group established another 20 franchises and then another 28 franchises in 2008. For setting up of 48 Papa John’s franchises an investment of $14.4 million was needed, we estimate. 

    The president of Bajco Group, Abdul Malik Saleem Bajwa, wrote on his Twitter account (twitter.com/MalikBajwa) that the majority of investments came from bank loans, while some of his family friends started the business with them. However, there is no record of anyone else being associated with the businesses, only the brothers and sons and wife of Asim Bajwa are named. Records show availing of financial facility by the Bajco Group in 2010 and 2011 including $9.5 million in 2011. However, the Bajco Group President avoided answering questions about the initial investments in early 2000s.

    Regarding the financial records of the Bajwa family: the ownership of all 99 companies were detailed in official records and documents. Fact Focus could not determine the incorporation dates of six companies in Pakistan, Transcendent, Bajco Telecom, Fast Telecom, Emels Aalure, Ammar Engineering Associates and Krypton) The dates shown are estimated, based on circumstantial evidence. The date of incorporation of Saleem Shaheed Hospital is the date of its registration with tax authorities. In case of companies with the same name, first company was always established in Ohio State and then independent companies with the same names were registered in other states as ‘foreign companies’.

    Regarding the franchise valuations: There are many sources that give the estimated costs of starting a franchise of any restaurant. Franchise.com is considered a credible source. According to franchise.com, one can start a typical Papa John’s pizza restaurant franchise with an investment of $300,000. The actual costs depend on the location — lower in small towns, higher in large cities. Papa John’s requirements are that one must have at least $70,000 in liquid assets and a net worth of at least $250,000. One would have to pay a royalty fee of $25,000 at the time of launch. The franchise owner is also supposed to pay to Papa John’s a royalty fee of 5 percent of monthly net sales every month and 8 percent of monthly sales as advertising and marketing fee.

    Bajco Group set up 175 franchises overall during the last 18 years, out of which 133 are operational at present. Fact Focus estimates the total investment made for setting up these restaurant franchises to be $52.2 million and the net worth of operational franchises at present at $39.9 million.

    Though Fact Focus retrieved all the records from the state governments in the U.S., it remained unable to calculate the revenue volume and net worth of businesses in Pakistan due to the lack of financial transparency.

    Regarding the SECP, annual reports were not made available for companies like Krypton, a mining business, and Scion Builders, which develops multistory buildings, luxury bungalows and farmhouses in Lahore and Islamabad. Their net worth and revenue could have been obtained from the annual reports.

    Regarding the Pakistan Public Procurement Regulatory Authority, the PPRA was created for the purpose of financial transparency in the awarding of government contracts. However, the government has never made this data available, resulting in a lack of transparency and the absence of centralized information sharing with the public.

    This secrecy of this data makes it impossible to assess the volume of revenue and number of government contracts executed by the Bajwa family-owned companies in Pakistan.

    Regarding the Federal Bureau of Revenue, the agency provides no transparent tax reporting or a centralized/online government database. The government had started publishing taxpayers’ directories of citizens and parliamentarians in 2013, but the listings were stopped. The last such tax directory issued was published for the tax year 2016-17. Financial and tax transparency has evaporated in Pakistan