On April 17, social media was in an uproar with the news of Advisor to the Chief Minister (CM) of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) Mashal Yousafzai requesting the government for luxury cars worth more than Rs 27 million on provincial government’s expenditure.

Social media users were quick to criticise the move as the government is implementing austerity measures due to poor economic environment.

Geo News reported on the issue, led by their Peshawar reporter Nadia Saboohi who sent Yousafzai messages on whatsapp to ask about her version. Soon after Geo reported on the story, Yousafzai alleged in a post on X (formerly Twitter) that Saboohi tried to extort money from her and when Yousafzai refused to give in, ‘propaganda’ was done against her.

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The Current spoke with Saboohi to find out what happened.

“I had access to the document detailing the request for luxury cars, but since there are many fake documents on social media, I waited to get a confirmation from the relevant authorities about the authenticity of the document,” Saboohi said over the phone. “After the document was authenticated by proper authorities, I reached out to advisor sahiba for an explanation and her point of view.”

Interestingly, according to the document, Yousafzai had asked for a Toyota Fortuner for herself, listed at a price of over Rs. 1.7 crore and a KIA Sportage for her secretary worth Rs. 73 lakhs.

DOCUMENT

Saboohi remarked that she simply asked the advisor for her perspective, saying that she also asked if the move was wise in such a difficult economic climate, adding that “Even advisor sahiba’s own department has not paid seven to eight hundred employees their salaries.”

Saboohi also pointed out that the Chief Minister of KP Ali Amin Gandapur, implemented an austerity program and no government official is allowed to get any new cars or go abroad for medical treatment.

“In the beginning of our conversation, advisor sahiba flatly denied the existence of any such summary,” Saboohi recalled, “When she was sent the document, she changed her statement and said, ‘This summary is from March 29 and I stopped it.’”

When Geo News broke the story, it went viral, generating immense backlash against Yousafzai. The advisor then tweeted that she had taken back the request for luxury cars.

 TWEET

But the issue did not die down. Yousafzai took to X again and criticised the journalist and posted a serious allegation on X against Saboohi.

‘You’re taking money from the ‘boys’ and Muazzam Butt,” read Yousafzai’s tweet.

She also posted screenshots of the conversation she had with the journalist and revealed Saboohi’s phone number to the public. However, in the screenshots posted in her tweet, there is no evidence that Saboohi had extorted money from the advisor.

Yousafzai later deleted the tweet.

Deleted Tweet

“I made it clear to advisor sahiba that, being a journalist, I have no interest in taking sides,” Saboohi said. “I also told her that I have no personal grudge against you but the story was important to break because given the tough socio-economic environment the people of KP are facing, people deserved to know that luxury vehicles might be purchased using taxpayers’ money.”

According to Saboohi, Yousafza has issues within her own party,  specifically with senior advocate Muazzam Butt in Insaf Lawyers Forum. Butt was also mentioned in the tweet against Saboohi, as someone who Yousafzai alleged, was paying off the journalist. Yousafzai said to Saboohi, “Because Muazzam was unable to become the advocate general so he started propaganda against me with your help.”

Saboohi said that it was her job as a journalist to report stories about the government in KP and the CM had said that he wanted news outlets to openly report and criticise his government’s actions if needed. In return, “[Yousafzai] released my contact information on social media just because she didn’t approve of my story”.

KP GOVERNMENT’S RESPONSE

“The CM house rejected the summary when it was sent to them as told by the CM social media wing representative Yar Muhammad Niazi,” revealed Saboohi. Niazi told her that the document might have been circulated but it was always going to be rejected.

Saboohi also pointed out that the advisor neither holds the authority to send such a document nor put a stop to it because the ministry belongs to CM.

“The spokesperson of KPK government, Barrister Saif, said that the document was given by Yousafzai in her individual capacity, when I asked him about the issue,” Saboohi said, “after which I asked him if that meant that any common person can request the government to buy them cars? Because this was an official government document”.

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT

Khyber Union of Journalists Peshawar Press Club condemned the advisor for making unsubstantiated remarks and sharing the female journalist’s information on social media.

According to Saboohi, a Jirga in her community has also vowed to support her, adding that, “anyone is welcome to prove these kinds of allegations in her entire 26 years of career.”

Peshawar Press Club had given Yousafzai 24 hours to delete the tweet or provide evidence of her claims. Yousafzai has since deleted that tweet.

When asked about problems she’s faced due to her contact information being publicised by the KPK official, Saboohi remarked, “I am facing a lot of harassment and threats due to this and she [Yousafzai] is responsible for this.”

SOCIAL MEDIA RESPONSE

Interestingly, PTI supporters on X are also criticising the advisor on her tweet.

The Current has reached out to Yousafzai for her version of the story and a comment and have not heard back yet.