Pakistan′s former President Zardari arrested for money laundering | News | DW | 10.06.2019
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Pakistan's former President Zardari arrested for money laundering

Former President Asif Ali Zardari has been arrested in connection with a high-profile money laundering case. Zardari's opposition Pakistan People's Party said the arrest was politically motivated.

Pakistan's anti-graft body, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), arrested former President Asif Ali Zardari at his home in Islamabad on Monday in connection with a high-profile money laundering case that saw hundreds of millions of dollars siphoned out of the country.

Zardari and his sister are facing allegations of operating fake bank accounts for money laundering. Both deny these charges against them, and instead accuse the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan of "political victimization," as Shazia Marri, a lawmaker from Zardari's party, put it.

Pakistan's anti-graft body has arrested several politicians and businessmen on corruption charges since Khan took office last year.

Read more: Opinion: Pakistan needs ex-PM Sharif's political role now more than ever

Zardari's arrest came after an Islamabad court rejected a bail extension request from Zardari and his sister, who is also implicated in the case but has not yet been arrested. 

Last year, Pakistani authorities discovered several accounts flush with cash but in the names of poor people, which were then suddenly emptied. In September, Pakistan's Supreme Court established an investigative commission, and found that at least $400 million (€353 million) had been transferred through "thousands of false accounts."

Zardari, husband of the assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, served as Pakistan's president from 2008 to 2013. He spent 11 years in jail on corruption and murder charges before becoming president, although he was never convicted and denied committing any crimes. 

Read more: Pakistan: Imran Khan announces tax evasion amnesty scheme

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Political motivations? 

Several Pakistani opposition leaders, including Khan's predecessor Nawaz Sharif, have been imprisoned on similar corruption charges. Sharif was removed from office by the Supreme Court over corruption allegations and is currently serving a seven-year prison sentence in the eastern city of Lahore.

Opposition politicians from the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) said that Zardari's arrest was a reaction to protests that have been planned against Khan's government. The PPP says it will challenge the decision in the Supreme Court.

Afrasiab Khattak, a human rights activist and former Pakistani senator, told DW that Zardari's arrest appeared to be a case of "political victimization and blackmailing."

"We are not against accountability, but it should be across the board. Prime Minister Imran Khan's government has many corrupt members, but they appear to be above accountability," Khattak said.

However, Pakistan's government denied accusations that Zardari's arrest was politically motivated.

Fawad Chaudhry, Pakistan's minister of science and technology, told DW that the government was taking a "strong stance against corruption."

"Billions of rupees were transferred into fake bank accounts linked to Zardari. The probe was ordered by the Supreme Court. Now, the law is taking its course," said Chaudhry. 

Read more: Ishaq Dar: Pakistani PM Imran Khan 'responsible for current economic mess'

Pakistan is currently facing one of the worst economic crises in its history, and Prime Minster Khan is facing heavy pressure from political opponents. In May, Pakistan secured a multibillion dollar emergency loan package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In 2018, Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) came to power after winning a narrow, outright majority in the last parliamentary elections on promises to improve the country's economy and boost employment. But critics say his government has yet to honor these commitments. 

wmr/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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