Islamabad: An anti-corruption court in Pakistan Monday summoned former president Asif Ali Zardari to appear in corruption cases opened this month just weeks after he stepped down on completion of his term.
The cases were stalled as Zardari enjoyed presidential immunity, and earlier this month the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) court’s judge reopened five cases.
Zardari completed his five-year constitutional term on September 6 and became Pakistan’s first president to smoothly transfer power to another elected president.
Zardari is the co-chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and now eyes his biggest role in practical politics.
Some reports suggested that he had convened a meeting of senior party leaders later this week to discuss organisational matters.
The anti-corruption court Friday ordered reopening of corruption cases against Zardari, but despite notices issued to him and the prosecutor general of the NAB, the former president did not appear before the court October 14.
The additional prosecutor informed the judge that Zardari was abroad and the court then issued notice for him to appear on the next hearing October 29.
The government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif did not approach the court for reopening the cases against Zardari to avoid any political polarisation.
However, NAB Judge Bashir Ahmad suo motu reopened five old cases.
The cases are related to favouritism, misuse of power by Zardari during his party’s previous government of his slain spouse, then prime minister Benazir Bhutto, and allegedly receiving kickbacks by awarding contracts.
The PPP has criticised revival of the cases but said the former president would defend himself in court.
The party’s lawyer, Farooq Naek, said that none of the corruption charges has been proved against Zardari and these cases were registered for political motives.
Former president Pervez Musharraf withdrew all cases against Zardari and Benazir Bhutto under a controversial amnesty deal in 2007.
The Supreme Court later cancelled the National Reconciliation Ordinance and reopened all corruption cases against Zardari and nearly 8,000 other people, including political leaders and former government officials.
Swiss authorities, who were contacted by the government to reopen the pending graft cases against Zardari, rejected the plea on the ground that the time limits have passed.
The then PPP-led government initially refused to send a letter to the Swiss authorities for reopening the cases. It argued that since Zardari was the president, he enjoyed immunity.