Company linked to PM's Digital Pakistan unit stirs controversy.


KARACHI -- A company related to the Digital Pakistan initiative - a brainchild of Prime Minister Imran Khan's government - has stirred a controversy on social media, questioning the involvement of Tania Aidrus, the premier's special aide leading the initiative, who is among the board of directors of the related company.

Prime Minister Khan had launched the Digital Pakistan programme on Dec 5 last year and named Ms Aidrus, a Google executive who quit her position, to lead the initiative.

The Digital Pakistan programme operates directly under the Prime Minister Office. Later in February, Ms Aidrus was appointed as Special Assistant to the PM (SAPM) on Digital Pakistan, according to terms of rule 4 of the Rules of Business 1973.

During the same month, as per recent disclosures made on social media and verified by Dawn, a not-for-profit company named the Digital Pakistan Foundation (DPF) was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) under section 42 to compliment the government's Digital Pakistan initiative.

According to the SECP website, the founding directors of the foundation are Ms Aidrus, PTI stalwart Jahangir Tareen (who has been disqualified by the Supreme Court), ride-hailing app Careem's CEO Mudassar Ilyas Sheikha and Mr Tareen's lawyer Sikander Bashir Mohmand.

The inclusion of Ms Aidrus on the board of directors and the lack of transparency around the foundation's funding and operations have raised concerns, particularly one leading to conflict of interest.

Company is not-for-profit entity and won't take any payments from govt, says PM's aide

Reacting to the concerns, Ms Aidrus told Dawn: 'There is absolutely no issue with an SAPM being on the board of a not-for-profit company. It's important to remember that this is not a private limited company and the same sector would only be an issue when the company is a profit-making entity.'

The purpose of the foundation, she said, was to provide free-of-cost support to the government in its digitisation initiatives.

'As such, the foundation does not intend to take any payments from the government. The foundation does not intend to increase the burden on the government, rather looks to alleviate it by raising funding from external donors via grants, not loans,' she said.

Tareen's involvement

Ms Aidrus confirmed to Dawn that Mr Tareen was indeed part of the founding team 'as someone who is tied to the government's reform initiatives'.

However, she said, due to...

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