A company related to Tania Aidrus, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Digital Pakistan, and PM Khan’s confidante, Jahangir Tareen, has stirred a controversy on social media.
Though Tania is associated with PM Imran Khan’s Digital Pakistan initiative, she has also been revealed to be in the board of directors of a company ‘Digital Pakistan Foundation’ alongside Jahangir Tareen, his lawyer Bashir Mohmand and Careem’s CEO Mudassar Ilyas Sheikha.
As per details, Tania returned to Pakistan last year, leaving her job as a Google executive to lead the initiative. In February this year, she was formally appointed on Digital Pakistan.
A few days later, as per recent disclosures and confirmed by Aidrus, a not-for-profit organization named Digital Pakistan Foundation (DPF) was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) with Aidrus, Tareen, and Sheikha being the founding members. That’s where the controversy begins.
Conflict of Interest
According to the constitutions experts, Tania Aidrus or anyone else for that matter cannot and should not hold any position which lacks transparency or leads to a conflict of interest.
When approached, Waqas Mir, a constitutional lawyer, said:
In her capacity as SAPM, she shouldn’t consult the government or advice it in relation to a private body where she serves as a board member.
If the organization under question bid for any government contracts where Ms. Aidrus is also present in the capacity of a decision-maker, such a conflict of interest needs to be disclosed.
As per a general rule, when a conflict of interest is disclosed, the person with the conflict doesn’t participate in the voting or decision-making process when it is taken up by the relevant government department or agency.
Upon contacting, Ms. Aidrus confirmed the report saying that there is no issue with SAPM holding a position in a not-for-profit company.
There is absolutely no issue with a 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 foundation will not take any payments from the government, rather looks to provide free-of-cost support to the government in its digitization initiatives, she added.
About Tareen’s Involvement
Aidrus also confirmed that Tareen was one of the board members when DPF was founded, as he then was linked to the government’s reform initiatives.
However, due to his personal and business commitments, Tareen resigned from the board.
On April 15, 2020, Mr. Tareen chose to resign as member and director and informed the board accordingly. The SECP approved his request to resign as a subscriber member on April 23.
Aidrus highlighted that no board of director or chairperson was allowed to draw salary or any stipend from the organization while holding any public office.
She noted that the board members have not signed any contracts even exchanged at this point. Like any other not-for-profit organization, Digital Pakistan Foundation will also require the government/regulator’s requisite approval to operate.