ISLAMABAD: After a long interval of five years, former president Asif Ali Zardari will face six corruption cases in an accountability court on Tuesday (today).
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has vowed to ‘vigorously’ pursue the cases and the main opposition PPP has decided to vehemently defend Mr Zardari.
Sources in the NAB said the bureau, which is an investigation and prosecution agency, had made preparations to pursue the cases.
“NAB Chairman Qamar Zaman Chaudhry has made it clear that he will not tolerate any leniency in pursuance of cases against Mr Zardari,” an official of the bureau told Dawn.
He said the NAB chief directed officials concerned in a recent meeting to honestly fight the cases.
On Oct 11, the Accountability Court of Islamabad issued notices to NAB Prosecutor General K.K. Agha and Mr Zardari to attend the hearing of the cases on Tuesday. Mr Zardari’s five-year-term as president ended on Sept 8.
The cases against Mr Zardari were closed five years ago after the promulgation of the National Reconciliation Ordinance by then president retired General Pervez Musharraf. Later the NAB could not reopen the cases because Mr Zardari became president and started enjoying immunity.
The new chairman of the NAB has already vowed to reopen pending cases, including those against Mr Zardari, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. Now all eyes are on him to see when he reopens cases against the Sharif brothers.
Senator Farhatullah Babar, spokesman for Mr Zardari, said former law minister Farooq Naek will represent the former president in the court on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Mr Zardari has shelved his scheduled visit to Lahore on Tuesday with no announcement of next date of the visit. He was scheduled to meet leaders and workers of the PPP in Lahore in an effort to reorganise the party in Punjab.
Mr Babar said he believed that Mr Zardari would win the cases. “The NAB had pursued the cases for several years, but could not find even a single credible evidence against him,” he said.
Mr Naek could not be contacted despite attempts. He had said earlier that Mr Zardari would be absolved of the charges because he was co-accused in the cases and the main accused had already been acquitted. “If a main accused in a case has been acquitted, how a co-accused can be punished.”
Some political circles believe that ‘dealing’ with the cases against Mr Zardari and the Sharif brothers will be a challenge for the new NAB chairman as he is said to be a ‘loyalist’ of Nawaz Sharif and has allegedly been appointed under a ‘shifty deal’ between the PML-N and the PPP that envisages that cases against their top leaders will not be ‘effectively’ pursued.
The cases against Mr Zardari contain charges of kickbacks and commission from SGS PSI Company for pre-shipment inspection, grant of a licence to ARY Gold causing losses to national exchequer, receipt of illegal gratification and commission in purchase of URSUS tractors under the Awami Tractor Scheme, illegal award of a contract to Cotecna for pre-shipment, possession of assets beyond means and receipt of kickbacks from Sajjad Ahmad, a former chairman of Pakistan Steel Mills.
The Cotecna corruption reference was initially prepared by Saifur Rehman, the chairman of Ehtesab Bureau during the second government of Nawaz Sharif. Former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and Mr Zardari were the main accused and Nusrat Bhutto, former chairman of the Federal Board of Revenue A.R. Siddiqui and six directors of the Swiss company, Cotecna, were co-accused. Benazir Bhutto and Mr Zardari had been accused of taking as kickback six per cent of the total value of $131 million pre-shipment contract awarded to the Swiss company.