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MEA, Regulatory

Former Pakistani President indicted on money laundering charges

By Dan Byrne

An ex-president of Pakistan has been indicted on charges related to money laundering, which his supporters argue is politically motivated.

Asif Ali Zardari, currently a member of the Pakistani National Assembly, served as the nation’s President from 2008 to 2013.

He was indicted Monday, along with 14 others, on charges of money laundering through bank accounts and organisations that the country’s anti-corruption officials have labelled suspicious, the New York Times reports.

For Zardari, the husband of assassinated former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, this is the latest in a string of legal action against him.

He had previously been arrested in 2019 as part of a separate money laundering investigation, and was charged in the 1990s with corruption and the murder of a well-known Pakistani politician and terrorist leader.

He was never convicted for those charges and continues to plead innocent.

His supporters claim the current indictment is another round of actions designed to target politicians who oppose current Prime Minister Imran Khan. Khan’s centrist PTI party won power in 2018 on a strong anti-corruption platform.

A spokesperson for Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Manzoor Ahmed played down the indictment as a routine part of the court process, but he stressed that there was no evidence to prove that the charges against the former president were true.

“He has spent several years in jail on trumped-up charges, so it’s nothing for him. But for us, the biggest concern is his ailing health,” Ahmed said.

Ill-health was the reason for Zardari’s release on bail last December, following his arrest in June 2019.

Separately on Monday, anti-corruption officials also arrested Pakistani opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) in another money laundering case.

His party and Zardari’s are allied in their criticisms of Khan’s regime. PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari released a statement shortly afterwards, strongly condemning Sharif’s arrest. “The Imran Khan regime is frightened by the opposition alliance,” he said. “The regime cannot impede people’s resistance by targeting the opposition leaders.”

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