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Probing bank accounts

July 10, 2018

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THE inquiry into 29 bank accounts at Summit Bank through which funds allegedly belonging to close associates and business concerns of former president Asif Zardari (including Rs15m identified in the FIR as belonging to the M/S Zardari Group) were transacted raises important questions. The facts appear damning. Details of one account are given in the FIR, along with identities of 15 depositors and 13 beneficiaries of vast sums, ranging from Rs5m to Rs2.5bn for a total of Rs2.855bn paid out of the account and Rs4.145bn deposited into it. Moreover, the account was opened in the name of an individual who denies all knowledge about it and says his signatures were forged, a fact confirmed by investigators. The bank is owned by an associate of Mr Zardari, Hussain Lawai, which adds fuel to the notion that the PPP leadership has been caught red-handed transacting the proceeds of corruption. Until the people mentioned in the FIR appear before the courts to record their versions of what these funds represent and why they were routed through bank accounts of dubious veracity, this impression may not be dispelled.

The question of timing, though, asserts itself. The transactions date back to 2014-2015, and the first inquiry was initiated in July 2015. There is reason to believe that all these details came on the radar of the authorities after many of Mr Zardari’s associates were picked up by unknown agencies as far back as 2010. The Suspicious Transactions Report of the Financial Monitoring Unit seems to have been issued in February this year, triggering a separate inquiry into which the earlier one in 2015 was amalgamated. It appears that these details, which have been known to the authorities for many years, have suddenly begun to move forward weeks before the election. The impression of corrupt practices that these details create is unmistakable, but so too is the idea that they are being advanced for political ends. The probe must now proceed without let or hindrance to clear the air, since open and transparent legal action is the only way to move past impressions towards the facts, and to accord punishment where it is due.

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2018