KARACHI, Pakistan — Several senior journalists resigned from a developing Pakistani television network, Bol, on Saturday, in the latest fallout from a crisis engulfing the channel’s parent company, Axact, a software firm that profited immensely from international sales of fake diplomas.
The defections were led by Bol’s editor in chief, Kamran Khan, and came just hours after Pakistan’s interior minister announced that the government was broadening its inquiry into Axact and intended to seek help from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Interpol. Axact has been under intense scrutiny since federal investigators raided the company’s offices on Tuesday, after the publication of an article in The New York Times that detailed how the Karachi-based software company made millions of dollars from selling the fake degrees.
The scandal had already jeopardized the livelihood of at least 2,000 employees at Axact, and now it casts a shadow over Bol, which had declared ambitions to become Pakistan’s top television network.
Mr. Khan is one of Pakistan’s best-known journalists. He quit a prime-time show at the rival Geo News channel last year to lead Bol. Others who resigned include Bol’s president, Azhar Abbas, and at least three prominent journalists who had joined the network over the past year.
Bol embarked on an aggressive recruitment campaign almost two years ago, poaching many senior and midlevel journalists from rival networks. Bol plans to have two channels, initially, as well as Urdu- and English-language newspapers.
As Shoaib Ahmed Shaikh, the founder and chief executive officer of Axact, came under criticism in the news media last week, Bol started test transmissions. Mr. Shaikh said the channel would begin operations in mid-June, earlier than expected.
But the government investigation into Axact appears to have slowed that momentum. The interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, told reporters on Saturday in Islamabad, the capital, that a preliminary investigation had uncovered “serious, substantive evidence” against Axact.
The interior minister said he hoped that the F.B.I., Interpol and possibly British law enforcement could provide information on “the universities that have come onto the radar,” a reference to hundreds of education websites, many with American- or British-sounding names, run by Axact.
He said that the investigation might expand to include money laundering and that a decision on whether to file a criminal report — the first step in a prosecution — would be made in the next 10 days.
Investigators at the Axact offices in Karachi and Islamabad took away several computers, servers and documents last week, and also interviewed six executives in Islamabad.
Declan Walsh contributed reporting from London.
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(via NY Times)