The Karachi born and raised entrepreneur, Shoaib Ahmed Sheikh, was studying business at IBA when he decided to launch a software developing company, Axact. In 1997, Shoaib started operations with less than ten people. Today, nearly two decades later, Shoaib claims Axact is three times larger than the largest private sector company in Pakistan and that it has grown by 800% in the preceding year. How the founder and CEO of this massive conglomerate manages only to part with 26 rupees in tax is baffling then.

Another equally baffling claim is that Axact’s social development wing, SED Axact, will educate 10 million children, for no cost, and make food and shelter accessible to ‘all’ by 2019: a modern day rendition of Bhutto’s populist slogan ‘roti, kapra, makaan’ that will help Shoaib gain the public support he needs to establish BOL – a broadcasting station – his ambitious yet perpetually deferred foray into the media industry.

In light of the charges recently leveled against Axact, of deceiving gullible customers into buying fake degrees and diplomas online, one cannot help but wonder if Shoaib’s lofty claims were aimed simply to gain goodwill for his new project BOL, or if they were used as a ploy to make law enforcement agencies and simple jingoistic folk look the other way. In either case, yesterday, when Axact offices were raided and its equipment confiscated, one of Shoaib’s many claims on how ‘no power in the world could stop Axact from achieving its goals’ was denied by the FIA.

FIA intervention was necessary because even after years of FBI investigations, no court of law had been able to implicate Axact. Moving forward, it seems unlikely that Axact’s best kept secret – the details of a cyber scam it may have engineered – will appear in an employee’s computer, unprotected. What benefit FIA’s dramatic entry into Axact will or can bring, we do not know.

What we do know is that Shoaib has no qualms in ‘buying’ his way to victory. For several months now, BOL has been sustaining a growing team of media professionals, and Shoaib has himself corroborated how he has poached talent at twice the market rate. BOL’s official launch, however, is pending on the whims of Pakistan’s coterie of media sultans, who would much rather not let Shoaib’s ambitious plan unsettle the cozy status quo they have been enjoying and want to remain ensconced in.

We also know that Shoaib always wanted to be the richest man on earth, even ‘richer than Bill Gates’. And while an insatiable lust for money in itself is not a crime one can convict him of, Shoaib’s sudden change of heart and plan from accumulating wealth to distributing it amongst the hapless masses draws suspicion. Is Shoaib trying to legitimize monies he cannot otherwise account for? Should new philanthropic promise rid a money-grubbing con artist of inquiry? Can the distribution of free health, education, food and shelter buy innocence for his misdeeds? The only eventuality one must fear is that all these questions will evaporate if Shoaib somehow brokered a deal with the powers that be – ‘media sultans’ and the statesmen who seek to profit from their existence.

Take GEO for instance. Last year, in the aftermath of a blasphemy case, Mir Shakeel ur Rehman, the owner of GEO, left Pakistan out of fear. The grapevine, however, suggests that he is very much back in Pakistan, and he is lobbying to take the steam out of Shoaib’s business juggernaut. A man who left the country on the pretext of security is unlikely to return without the protection of the state. And if the state is indeed protecting or extending preferential treatment of any sort to a man like Rehman, can it not act the same with Shoaib Ahmed Shaikh? This question will become even more relevant if Shoaib gets away scot-free.

But it doesn’t seem like the government is behind him in any way. A battery of security guards shadow Shoaib these days, indicating perhaps that he has more enemies than friends, and enemies who are probably not limited to media power houses. For starters, no one can claim to eradicate hunger, homelessness, injustice and illiteracy and fail to threaten elected representatives in government – a group of people that seizes power through the exact same promises. Secondly, America’s higher education industry earns more from foreign graduates than any other country in the world and when online education scams siphon millions of dollars a day, they leave a dent in the U.S. education industry pocket. In response, the U.S. government will do whatever it can to clamp down on such scams, popularly known as ‘diploma mills’.

Coming back to Axact’s first line of opposition, Pakistan’s media industry leadership has no reason to welcome Shoaib’s unending fervor, his indomitable spirit and his immense self belief. Last year at a corporate event Shoaib said, ‘BOL will exceed standards at CNN and BBC’. He added that BOL will in fact ‘become the best channel in Pakistan on its first day of operations’. Subsequently, when BOL cherry picked Pakistan’s top media talent and apparently bought out other channels, like HUM, BOL’s competitors began to realize their grip on the industry was beginning to wane and they started looking for skeletons – anything to derail Shoaib from his plan to launch a television network of unprecedented equipment, expertise and scale. This is one plausible flipside to the Axact story that may or may not be of any consequence in the days ahead. Regardless, in the interest of getting to the truth, we must remain open to varying narratives, however difficult they may be to digest.

Watching the show from the sidelines, we are prone to shout ‘guilty’ when an international publication condemns a local organization, especially with evidence that very strongly suggests ‘guilt’, but nonetheless remains inconclusive. Our natural proclivity to point fingers at money making magnates aside, we should scrutinize every detail for and against Axact. For instance, the credibility of testimonials from disgruntled, former Axact employees, is questionable; FBI’s inability to implicate (since 1997) what it identifies as ‘possibly the largest cyber crime network in the world’, is a strange, implied admission of incompetence; and linkages between New York Times (the paper that broke the news on Axact) and the Express Tribune (BOL’s competitor) are also very real.

At this point in time, there is certainly more evidence against Axact than in its favor. Fixating on Axact alone, however, might prematurely assign all blame to the one, most obvious scapegoat – Axact – and rob us of a well-protected truth.