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Zardari held in fake accounts case

Ex-President denies graft accusations, says govt trying to malign Opposition leaders

By Nasir Jaffry and Agencies in Islamabad
  • Published 11.06.19, 2:44 AM
  • Updated 11.06.19, 2:44 AM
  • 2 mins read
  •  
Former Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari in Islamabad on Monday. (AP)

The Islamabad High Court on Monday rejected former President Asif Ali Zardari’s bail plea in the fake bank accounts case, prompting officials of the country’s top anti-graft watchdog to arrest him.

However, his sister Faryal Talpur was not detained.

The arrest came as the Opposition, comprising former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (N) and Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party, launched an agitation against the Imran Khan government.

Zardari was arrested from his Islamabad house and shifted to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) office for a medical check-up before being taken to the bureau’s lock-up.

Initially, Zardari’s supporters and aides resisted the arrest, but later the security team was allowed to enter the house and the 63-year-old leader surrendered to the bureau officials.

Television footage showed Zardari coming out of his house and embracing his younger daughter Aseefa before getting into a black Toyota Landcruiser. A number of party workers and Zardari’s son Bilawal were present as the former President was driven away in the SUV.

Zardari, the 11th President of Pakistan from 2008 to 2013, has denied any links with the fake accounts. He said the allegation was part of a campaign by the ruling party to malign Opposition leaders.

He was elected as a member of the National Assembly from the NA-213 Nawabshah seat of Sindh province in last year’s general election.

Zardari and Talpur are two of the main accused in the money laundering scandal. They allegedly utilised fake bank accounts to channel illegally gained funds out of Pakistan.

The arrest warrants were issued on Sunday by the NAB.

Pandamonium gripped the National Assembly after Zardari’s arrest with PPP members surrounding the Speaker’s dias.

The uproar began as the chair did not allow PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to speak on a point of order after the speech of Opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif who returned home from Britain after seven weeks.

Nawaz Sharif, who is jailed and faces graft charges, condemned Zardari’s arrest in the case.

Khan, who came to power in July last year, promised to bring plundered national wealth back home.

His government faced a severe balance of payment crisis, which forced Khan to approach Saudi Arabia, UAE and China for financial assistance.

The government is also engaged in crucial talks with the IMF for a bail out package of approximately $11 billion while the rupee continues to fall against the US dollar.

According to the NAB officials, Zardari and his sister made transactions of Rs 150 million through alleged fake bank accounts.

Meanwhile, the PPP has called a consultative meeting to discuss the legal options of Zardari and Talpur.

PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s spokesperson Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar appealed to PPP supporters across the country to remain peaceful.

“We are waiting for IHC’s written order,” he said, adding that future strategy will be decided once the party receives the order.

Former Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani said Zardari was arrested under protest and the party would contest it at all forums.

“I request the speaker of National Assembly to issue orders to produce him (Zardari) in the House as he is member of the parliament,” Gilani said.

There were reports of protests by PPP supporters in Lahore and Karachi but no major disturbance was witnessed.