Former Pakistan president Zardari faces anti-corruption court proceedings
Islamabad, August 17: Days after Nawaz Sharif was disqualified from premiership over the Panama Papers scandal, former Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari's fate hangs in balance as an anti-corruption court is set to start proceedings against him in an old graft case.
The anti-corruption court will decide the last of at least six corruption cases against 62-year-old Zardari, related to corruption. Dawn News reported that the court will initiate day-to- day proceedings against the Pakistan People's Party co- chairperson over his allegedly illegal assets, both in Pakistan and abroad. Zardari and his wife late Benazir Bhutto had been accused of acquiring assets through illegal means.
The reference was filed before an accountability court in 2001 and was closed in 2007 under the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), issued by the government of retired General Pervez Musharraf. The Supreme Court, in its verdict in the NRO case on December 2009, had ordered the revival of cases closed under the ordinance.
By then, however, Zardari had been sworn in as president and therefore enjoyed immunity under Article 248 of the Constitution. The Natonal Accountibility Bureau re-opened the assets reference in April 2015, but the case has been proceeding at a snail's pace.
However, in the wake of the recent judgement against Sharif, the accountability court with the consent of the National Accountability Bureau initiated daily hearings in the matter. Earlier this year, the prosecution learnt that a star witness in the corruption reference had 'mysteriously disappeared'. The witness in question Barrister Jawad Mirza was then declared a proclaimed offender by the Rawalpindi accountability court.
Mirza was a legal consultant with NAB's Financial Crime Investigation Wing (FCIW) in 2002, and presented volumes of documentary evidence to the investigation officer. The evidence includes documents related to money transactions, including details of bank accounts and offshore companies allegedly belonging to Zardari and his family.
NAB prosecutor Tahir Ayub expressed the hope that proceedings would be completed in the next few days after which the court would pass a verdict. He told Dawn the case was in its final stages, therefore, the court has decided to go for day- to-day hearings.