'Bureaucrat's daughter received Rs720m in salaami at her wedding'

Rs1.2b were collected in salaami at wedding of same bureaucrat's first daughter, claims Khawaja Asif

News Desk February 26, 2023
Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif speaking on the floor of te National Assembly.—File photo

In a startling revelation, Defence Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif has claimed that a Pakistani bureaucrat's daughter received Rs720 million (USD $2.8m) at her wedding in salaami—the tradition of parents, relatives and guests gifting money to the bride and groom.

The minister also claimed that a whopping Rs 1.2 billion (USD $4.6m) were collected in salaami at the wedding of the first daughter of the same bureaucrat, who he said is a grade 21 public servant.

."Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi personally told me that he went to the wedding of a bureaucrat's daughter. A person from his constituency was collecting salaami," Asif said during a session of the National Assembly on Friday.

"Elahi asked him how much have you collected till now, to which he replied 'Rs720 million and counting'. He was stuffing the money into a shopping bag," he told Parliament.

The defence minister further claimed that Rs1.2 billion were collected as salaami on the wedding of another daughter of the same bureaucrat—an amount that excludes jewellery and cars gifted to the bride.

"The bureaucrat is a grade 21 or 22 officer, but no one has ever questioned him (on his sources of income)," he said.

The Express Tribune could not independently verify the veracity of Asif's claims or the identity of the alleged bureaucrat.

The story narrated by the minister in Parliament is an example of the extravagant lifestyles of the rich and powerful and the widening divide between the haves and have-nots in Pakistan, which suffers from deep-rooted income and wealth inequality.

The statement from the minister comes at a time when Pakistan is battling one of the worst economic crises in its history, with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) demanding demanding withdrawal of subsidies and collection of higher taxes from the country's rich to resume a stalled $6.5 billion bailout program.

IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva says tax collected from Pakistan's elites should be spent on those who need the government’s help the most, questioning why the rich should benefit from subsidies and not pay up in the face of tremendous challenges.

Read more: Taxing the rich

Over 22 percent of the country's 220 million population lives below the poverty line.

According to a recent United Nation's report, Pakistan’s richest one percent own 9 percent of the country's overall income, while the poorest one percent hold just 0.15 percent.

The country's richest 20 percent hold almost half – 49.6 percent – of the national income, whereas the poorest 20 percent hold just seven percent, according to the UNDP report.

“The poorest and richest Pakistanis effectively live in completely different countries, with literacy levels, health outcomes, and living standards that are poles apart,” states the UNDP report.


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