A senior Pakistani civil servant is under investigation after reportedly being filmed stealing a visiting Kuwaiti delegate’s wallet at an official function.
However, photographs said to be of the suspect, Zarar Haider Khan, published in mainstream and social media show a completely innocent individual who resides in the United States.
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said that Mr Haider is the joint secretary of the Ministry of Industries and Production in Pakistan, and that an investigation is being launched into the theft from the Kuwaiti diplomat.
An official document was subsequently published, noting Mr Haider’s suspension. Mr Haider is a grade BS-20 official, one of the higher ranks in Pakistan’s civil service, and the incident has opened the government to “severe embarrassment”, Islamabad newspaper The News says.
The six-second clip of close-circuit television footage shows the suspect pocketing the wallet which had been left on a table at the Economic Affairs Division, Dawn newspaper reports.
The paper says that the theft only came to light after the Kuwaiti delegation – who were in Pakistan to discuss future trade between Kuwait and the new government in Islamabad – lodged a complaint with their hosts when they realised that the wallet had gone missing.
The wallet contained “a significant sum of Kuwaiti dinars”, the paper said, and the suspect was named only after the CCTV footage was reviewed by officials.
According the Pakistani press, the “extremely angry” Kuwaiti delegation insisted that the suspect be identified.
Unsurprisingly, the footage went viral on South Asian social media after it appeared on television news broadcasts, with Pakistani Twitter users expressing their shame over the theft from visiting dignitaries.
Indian social media users noted the theft with no little glee, with several saying “This is what small officials of a small country do when they see big people’s wallet”.
However, a photograph accompanying media reports – on television and on social media – was not of Zarar Haider Khan, but of Ziad Haider, a US-based risk analyst who has worked for the State Department in Washington DC. He is also a White House fellow and a Senior Associate at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Pakistan Today reports.
Online news portal Daily Pakistan said that photographs of the wrong Mr Haider were posted on the internet “with insulting remarks and comments”.
Asked on Twitter if he was aware that he was trending in Pakistan, the entirely innocent Ziad Haider replied with thanks, saying: “My name is Ziad – not Zarar – Haider and, as other publications in Pakistan have already noted, this is indeed fake news”.
However, videos uploaded by Pakistani broadcasters incorrectly showing the blameless Ziad Haider were still accessible on YouTube on 1 October. No images of Zarar Haider Khan are available.
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The affair has certainly caused the government of Pakistan deep embarrassment, and it’s hoping that launching a prompt investigation will cool Kuwaiti anger.
However, The Times reports that the incident means that the Kuwaiti investment plan has been “shelved”, and could damage new Prime Minister Imran Khan’s hopes of avoiding a financial bail-out for the country.
Imran Khan, who has been in office for less than two months, has pledged to clamp down on corruption among high-ranking officials, and this episode is an early – not to mention extreme – test of his quest to clean up Pakistani politics and attract foreign investment.
But it appears that he has a lot of work to do, with Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry telling reporters that officials had been given their training in morals by “previous governments”, Dawn newspaper reported.
Reporting by Alistair Coleman
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Source BBC News