‘King of political reconciliation’ Asif Zardari handed over to NAB on physical remand

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ISLAMABAD: A political drama has unfolded in Islamabad on Monday as security agencies have arrested former Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari from his house in Islamabad.

A big team from the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), accompanied by police personnel and other security agencies, arrested Zardari in the fake accounts case after the Islamabad High Court rejected an application seeking extension of their pre-arrest bails.

After a standoff for a few hours, NAB team and the police officials entered the former president’s house to take him into custody.

Asif Ali Zardari is also Co-chairman of Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP)—one of the largest political parties of Pakistan with massive street power.

Following its verdict, the high court also permitted NAB to carry out arrest of Asif Zardari and Faryal Talpur. However, only Zardari has been arrested. Zardari has previously spent time in jail on corruption charges for about 11 years in two different stins –from 1990 to 1993 and from 1997 to 2004, but he became president of Pakistan from 2008 until 2013 after the assassination of his wife Benazir Bhutto, former two-time prime minister of Pakistan.

The news of rejection of Zardari’s bail and his arrest has created quite a furor amongst Pakistan’s opposition political parties, which were already mulling to launch a protest campaign against Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Though the courts are independent in Pakistan, questions are being raised on the timing of the bail rejection and the arrest orders of the most powerful opposition leader whose party rules the Sindh Province.

It is worth noting that the decision has been taken on the day when the Economic Survey of Pakistan is scheduled to be released and Imran Khan’s government is all set to present its first federal budget.

Imran’s government is already under immense criticism for price hike and worsening economic situation and massive taxation are also expected during the budget.

According to media reports, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) wanted to arrest former president and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur in a case relating to transaction of Rs150 million to their private company through alleged fake bank accounts.

Zardari’s next step will be to approach the Supreme Court and ask it to suspend the high court’s order and grant him bail. He has already got an extension in his pre-arrest bail five times and was on bail for two months and 12 days.

The FIR for the case was filed in Karachi. A banking court was hearing the case earlier but it was transferred to NAB Islamabad after the Supreme Court handed over the fake accounts case.

NAB is also investigating a case involving a company owned by Zardari and his sister, Faryal Talpur, received Rs30 million of Rs4.4 billion in suspicious transactions carried out through fake accounts.

Zardari, currently a lawmaker in Parliament, and his sister Faryal Talpur, are also accused of having dozens of bogus bank accounts. The two attended the court hearing but were not arrested at the scene.

The anti-graft body has arrested several politicians on corruption charges since Prime Minister Imran Khan took office last year. Khan’s predecessor, Nawaz Sharif, was removed from office by the Supreme Court over corruption allegations.