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Cracking The Nut of Axact/Bol Media Group

Innocent until proven guilty. An age-old maxim, which solely exists in order to ensure that mere accusation doesn’t result in wrongful punishment. But what happens when the world’s most powerful newspaper accuses you of fraudulent activities of the highest level? The accusations leveled by Declan Walsh, former Bureau Chief of New York Times in Islamabad have caused an outcry in the media circles within Pakistan and abroad. Forbes, Dailymail and other international news corporations have published this news along with Pakistan’s own news outlets.

Bol Media Group, which seeks to become the market leader in the media sector of Pakistan has been shrouded in mystery since the first time its name was unveiled publicly. The company spent an exorbitant amount of money in order to entice journalists of all caste and creed into its fold. Promises of unrealistically high salaries, unheard of perks and privileges, a state of the art workplace and even shareholdings were promised to up and comers as well as veterans of the media industry of Pakistan. All this ultimately begged the question, how is Bol funding such an ambitious and expensive venture?


Fake US State department letter recovered

The roots of Bol lie within Axact, self-described as an IT company. Even before the NYT story, speculations were afloat regarding the nature of business of this company. Its website does not provide details of the software it has produced, neither does it offer a client list which they claim are the source of hundreds of millions of dollars being funneled into the company. How then can an operation of such magnanimous proportions go through when the basic business of the parent company is not known to anyone?

An FIA team taking some employees of Axact in for questioning during a raid at the firm’s Karachi office

The armed forces, organized crime syndicates, property tycoons and other influential powers were assumed by many to be behind this new media corporation, which seeks to change the very dynamics of the Media industry of Pakistan. Ultimately, it was an American investigative journalist who cracked the nut of the mystery; most Pakistanis were completely oblivious about.


The story fake Diplomas, real cash claims that the real source of Bol’s funding comes fraudulent practices arising from quasi-legal educational institutions and fake accreditation bodies. Walsh claims that Axact, the parent company of Bol earns about $120,000 per day by selling fake degrees to unsuspecting and sometimes willing customers. The story featured forged documents bearing the Signature of the US Secretary of State, John Kerry. It also described the plight of several victims, which they claimed were financially wronged by Axact’s fraudulent practices. While most of this could be termed as speculation or victimization depending on which side one is tilted to, it is true that Axact’s subsidiaries were asked to pay millions of dollars in damages by two US courts. None of the money was actually paid by Axact according to the newspaper.


While this is the information, which has already been made public, there is certain information, which has not been cracked even by the hard working folks at NYT.


Edusyspro.com is a company that shares an uncanny resemblance to Axact’s website. The layout of the website, the software being offered as well as the toll free number are exactly the same as Axact’s Education Management System video. In fact, a closer study of Axact’s video at 1:12 min shows the same number, as it is Edusyspro.com!


The chances of this being a coincidence are extremely slim, since the type of service being offered, the number to reach the service and the video content is exactly the same. There is almost no doubt that the same people are behind both websites.


If one conducts who is lookup on any domain website on edusyspro.com, one finds a registrant phone number of +1.5043550082. There are eleven digits in this number, if any statistician has some spare time, he can calculate what would be the probability of this number being the same number on thousands of fake educational as well as pornographic websites? Certainly it will not be a lot, but in reality, it is exactly one. The odd mystery is that one number which is on a website which is exactly like Axact, also shares its number with thousands of other websites which may or may not be considered to be legitimate but the story is cracked when the names for school and colleges are found registered on this number are the same ones as mentioned in the New York Times list. Another uncanny coincidence, perhaps.


Axact has responded to the story already and while some are satisfied with their response, many believe it to be a ridiculously insufficient reply to the nature of allegations framed. Axact’s argument is that other media houses are intimidated by Bol’s increasing presence and market dominance and thus they are resorting to ‘yellow journalism’ and cooking stories from the figment of their imagination.


If one moves back a little, the memo gate scandal was a crisis of epic proportions as it jolted the entire political and military leadership of the country and many believed that Islamabad and Pindi were at odds, with Washington serving as a not so silent spectator. The memo gate scandal arose from one article, written by American businessman Mansoor Ejaz. Ejaz had a controversial history since his links with Kashmir, Washington, Delhi as well as Islamabad startled many in the diplomatic spheres of all the countries involved. He claimed that there was unrest between the relationship of the government as well as the armed forces and was successful in creating a global controversy regardless of the truth.


The electronic media swept the Pakistani nation by storm as soon as it was introduced and within almost no time, hundreds of channels featuring news, entertainment and sports sprung up courtesy of the investments of deep pocketed business tycoons who sought to capitalize on a new cash cow. Many of them failed but others survived. Some became increasingly powerful in the process and saw their political influence grow tenfold. There were impressions that perhaps the owner of one of the largest media houses thought that his power could not be challenged and thus found it wise to enter into a political boxing match with another heavyweight. It would be fair to say that the media mogul got knocked out in the first round and realized that there were still some powers, which could easily overpower and outmaneuver the likes of him in an instant.


A balance of power within the media industry needs to be achieved and the only way this can be done is by increased transparency and objective accountability. If any news corporation is receiving funding from questionable sources, the State should take immediate action and make sure that our news outlets are not working on the behest of any undesirable power. Absolute power within one group almost always results in a monopolization of information, which can seldom be competed against.


I am not leveling any accusations on any media group whatsoever. In fact, the rising media industry as a whole has driven a new era in Pakistan, an era where our citizens are enlightened with the happenings of their country 24/7. Increased competition is what drives efficiency and should be appreciated by all the players in the industry. There is a deep sense of mistrust between the players since many consider their competitors as their enemies while they forget that they are all partners in creating the greater industry.


Allegations of epic proportions are made against Bol Media Group by one of the most prestigious newspapers in the world. The reply given is unsatisfactory, as it does not answer the fundamental question of Axact’s true business and revenue streams. There is a very easy way to quell such rumors and shush one’s enemies. The management of Axact need to provide tax returns since they have been in business and show that they have declared their income to the state of Pakistan and any country in which they have operations. If their returns prove that their equity has come through a declared source and all their businesses are legitimate, the world’s most powerful newspaper will be shamed in the global arena for leveling baseless accusations on a legitimate enterprise. If on the other hand, Axact responds with aggression, secrecy and furtiveness, we can be rest assured that the newest player is the one, which can most easily be outsmarted, outplayed and outmaneuvered, as some believe they already have been.

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