Zardari's close aide booked hours after his return

Former Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari's close aide was booked hours after his return to the country. The move is being seen as a message to Zardari to stay out of politics.

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Karachi, Dec 25: Paramilitary rangers have carried out raids and booked a close aide of former president Asif Ali Zardari under anti-terrorism law, as Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-Chairperson returned to the country ending his 18- month-long self imposed exile.

Political analysts see the raids carried out on the offices and residence of businessman Anwar Majeed (who is still at large), just hours after Zardari's return on Friday, as a message by the establishment to the firebrand leader to stay out of politics. Other close aides of Zardari, including an influential former petroleum minister and businessman Dr Asim Hussain, are already languishing in jails facing several cases of corruption and aiding terrorism.

Asif Ali Zardari

"The rangers decision to carry out the raids on the same day as Zardari arrived. It shows that the powerful lobbies are not keen to have him in the country," political analyst Nigar Jafri said.

"There are several cases and issues pending in which his close aides have been accused of massive corruption and some are in custody, so basically it is a message to him to go back to Dubai," another analyst said.

However, Zardari appeared calm when he visited the mausoleum of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah on Sunday to pay homage to the founder of the country on his birthday.

"Yes Anwar Majeed is a friend but why the rangers have raided his offices you should ask the interior minister," Zardari told the media. He said he was also keeping abreast of the cases against Asim.

"I have said before, these charges are political victimisation," he added.

Interestingly, Zardari's return to Karachi was not celebrated as a big occasion by the PPP as everyone expected. Instead of going from the airport to his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari's house in a motorcade, the former president and his close aides preferred to fly from the airport by a helicopter prompting speculations that there were security threats to his life.

Political analysts and citizens had expected the PPP to make a big show of Zardari's return on the main Karsaz road, where in October 2007, a deadly attack on the motorcade and procession of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who had returned home from a self-imposed exile after nine years, had killed around 160 PPP activists.

PTI

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