While PM Khan had captivated the international audience with his eloquent speech at WEF Summit last week, his statement that his trip to Davos was sponsored by friends and businessmen like Ikram Sehgal and Imran Chaudhry stirred a debate on Pakistan’s Twitter.
Addressing a ‘Breakfast at Davos’ event jointly organized by Pathfinder Group and Martin Dow Group, Khan admitted that since the “Stay in Davos is very expensive and I don’t want to spend public money on it” so his visit to Davos was sponsored.
Imran Khan: Ikram Sehgal & Imran Chaudhary funded me with $450,000 for Davos trip.
Dutch Minister: We're not allowed to have friends like this when in government, I came on my own expense. pic.twitter.com/KmqofXfklZ
— Murtaza Ali Shah (@MurtazaViews) January 26, 2020
In a small video clip shared of PM Khan addressing ‘Breakfast at Davos’, he said the trip to Davos cost $450,000 for a two-night stay for which he could not have burdened the national exchequer of Pakistan therefore, his friends sponsored the visit. He said it is the cheapest tour any Pakistani premier has ever made to Davos.
Khan recalled that his trip to UN Summit with $160,000 was the cheapest compared to the $1.4million expenditure by Asif Ali Zardari, Nawaz Sharif’s $1.3m and even $800,000 of former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.
He accepted the sponsorship offer for WEF Summit from individuals as a part of his austerity drive, said the press release.
“Saving is part of the prime minister’s ongoing robust drive in which he has also directed that the expenditures upon his upcoming WEF participation be minimized,” said the press release.
Where PM Khan has set the first instance of any premier’s foreign visit funded by individuals, he is found to have violated the oath of PM office in a bid to support his austerity drive, notes several commentators.
Arshad Sharif mentioned that perhaps this use of personal relationships can be described as ‘Corruption by Proxy’ where friends and family of powerful political figures have positioned themselves to serve as conduits or middlemen between those seeking influence and those who possess political power
Several journalists like Khawar Ghumman and Arshad Sharif observed that PM Khan’s visit to WEF Summit 2020 on sponsorship has caused a conflict of interest.
Arshad Sharif shared the images of the oath of PM House that bars premiers to use their interest to influence official conduct or official decisions. He questioned whether with the sponsorship from ‘friends’ Ikram Sehgal and Imran Chaudhry PM Khan represented Pakistan at WEF Summit in a personal capacity.
PM’s oath: “That I will not allow my personal interest to influence my official conduct or my official decision.”
Did #PMIK represent #Pakistan @Davos in #WEF2020 in personal capacity or as PM?How PM of Pakistan’s OFFICIAL visit can be sponsored by Friends? Oath violation? https://t.co/W5SCOqAtT1 pic.twitter.com/2rrfSwKEab
— Arshad Sharif (@arsched) January 26, 2020
In a relating tweet, Arshad Sharif mentioned that perhaps this use of personal relationships can be described as ‘Corruption by Proxy’ where friends and family of powerful political figures have positioned themselves to serve as conduits or middlemen between those seeking influence and those who possess political power.
Political leader Raza Haroon gave the benefit of the doubt to PM Khan saying he might have used the personal influence for the prosperity of the country.
Imran Khan says Ikram Sehgal, a retired military officer who is chairman of the Pathfinder Group (which owns a major Pakistani private security company) paid for his trip to the World Economic Forum at Davos. https://t.co/5MlhA8jHU3
— Asad Hashim (@AsadHashim) January 25, 2020
Social media reactions
However, the statement of PM Khan garnered mixed reactions on social media. Some said that his intentions were clear as at least he did not squander taxpayers money on foreign visits and excusing what he did was as it was for the prosperity of Pakistan. He used his personal influence to strongly put forth the case of Pakistan and Kashmir before the world. Unlike previous premiers, who though traveled on the taxpayer’s money who did not effectively materialize the opportunity to fight the case of Pakistan globally.
Prime minister Imran Khan says his trip to Davos was financed by his friends. Didn't his principal secretary Azam Khan know it was against the law of the land. Did Mr Azam inform his boss he cannot do so. Same goes for rest of the official lot surrounding PM.
— Khawar Ghumman (@Ghummans) January 26, 2020
Others said that, while PM Khan has good intentions, he should have been mindful of the oath of PM office.
Who are Ikram Sehgal and Imran Chaudhry?
Ikram Sehgal is a retired military officer and founder of Pathfinder Group in collaboration with Martin Dow Group who has been working at Davos since 1992 towards projecting a soft image of Pakistan before the world.
Mr Ikram sehgal's company is sponsoring the breakfast at Davos since two decades . Which includes for musharaf, Gillani and NS . Look it up .
— Naysayer!! (@tipsyturvyyy) January 26, 2020
Imran Chaudhry is a Dubai-based old friend of Imran Khan’s. He has been in Dubai for 35 years and works in steel, real estate, metals trading, and recycling sector. He also has investments in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and is a well-known philanthropist and donor to Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital.
When asked about his assistance for PM Khan’s visit to Davos, Imran Chaudhry said, “I am not a politician or into politics but I support Khan for his personality, his honesty and for the pain he has for Pakistan.” Adding that, his association with Khan is 30 years old, since the time he was a cricketer and was building his cancer hospital, Shaukat Khanum.