Pakistan court indicts former President Zardari in graft case

Former Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari
Former Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari

ISLAMABAD — Former Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari was on Monday indicted by an anti-graft court here on charges of corruption, as the opposition groups accused the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan of carrying out a political vendetta.

Azam Khan, a judge of an accountability court, formally framed charges against the former Pakistani president, who is also the co-chairman of Pakistan Peoples Party — the second biggest opposition party in Parliament — for buying assets overseas from undeclared sources.

Zardari appeared before the court via video link from Bilawal House in Karachi and pleaded not guilty. The trial will continue, according to a report in The Express Tribune, an English-language daily.

During the hearing, Zardari said that he cannot be indicted in the absence of lawyers as they are at the Supreme Court.

However, the court rejected Zardari`s plea and said that the former Pakistan President will be indicted and his lawyers would be marked absent if they did not appear before the court.

Others who are accused in the case include Omni Group chief Anwar Majeed, Sher Ali, Farooq Abdullah, Saleem Faisal and Muhammad Hanif. They were also indicted during the hearing.

As per the indictment, Zardari influenced relevant authorities to release loans to front companies during his term as president.

He was accused of being a director of Park Lane firm and planning to commit fraud.

With a mala fide intention, Zardari allegedly got a loan of Rs 1.5 billion for his front company, Parthenon Private Limited, and the amount was transferred for personal use through fake accounts.

The Park Lane corruption case is being probed over Zardari’s alleged involvement in extending the loan and its misappropriation by Parthenon Private Limited under different sections of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999 and the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2010, The Express Tribune reported.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has accused Zardari of causing the national exchequer a loss of Rs 3.77 billion through fake bank accounts.

In a 13-page NAB reference against the former president and other accused, the NAB alleged that the accused created benami (fictitious) properties through Park Lane Company, using Parthenon Private Limited as the front organization.

The indictment is the latest in a string of legal proceedings against premier Khan’s political opponents. A Pakistani court has jailed ex-premier Nawaz Sharif while many other opposition leaders are facing investigations by the nation’s anti-graft body. Both Zardari and Sharif, who is in London, are on bail and seeking medical treatment.