PPP co-chairman and former president Asif Ali Zardari was put in the hot seat on Wednesday evening during an interview with Dunya News, in which he outright rejected allegations that he had illegally channelled funds through benami accounts in connivance with the CEO of major banks.
Seven individuals, including Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur, were reported by investigators to be involved in using certain bank accounts for suspicious transactions totalling Rs35 billion.
The Supreme Court had ordered the Interior Ministry to place the names of all suspected beneficiaries ─ including Zardari and Talpur ─ and accused persons identified in the case on the Exit Control List, "so that they may not leave the country until the investigation in the matter is concluded or till further orders passed by this court".
Referring to the op-ed penned by Zahid Hussain which was featured in Dawn on Wednesday, the host asked Zardari what he thought of the "plot which is being drawn around him". To this, Zardari replied by saying: "Nothing happens in a vacuum. There is something in the works, hidden behind a veil."
He said of the notice issued by the SC summoning him and his sister Faryal: "The notice we have received is that for Rs15 million. The drums that are being beaten are for Rs35 billion."
The PPP co-chairman said that he "will see what happens" as he has faced many such cases before. "It does not matter if our opponents make such a move," he said, appearing unfazed.
Zardari, however expressed his displeasure at his close aide Hussain Lawai being taken into FIA custody and in his words "tortured".
"He is an 80-year-old man, a respectful banker. He was picked up and tortured. We condemn this," he said.
When asked whether this was actually true, he replied in the affirmative: "Yes, he has been tortured."
Responding to the allegations that he faces, he said: "Yes I outright reject these allegations. I am not denying that I have no relationship. Their sugar mills are located very close to my lands. My clerk and their clerk might have some give and take [arrangement] going on."
The PPP supremo was then asked to explain the legality of the summons he has been issued in light of the fact that he won't be appearing in court tomorrow. He responded by saying, "When the Supreme Court orders you to be there, that means your representative should be there."
Responding to the host's remark about a narrative being built which makes it seem that he is avoiding appearing before the court, Zardari said: "The narrative can be built in any way."
He was then asked to comment on the "language that is developing" when the use of terms such as "judicial martial law", "creeping coup" and "farishton ki amad" is on the rise, especially with the verdict against Nawaz Sharif, and how he sees the situation that he is facing.
"What makes you think he has been taken care of?" Zardari responded, referring to the PML-N supreme leader.
He went on to say: "The time for accountability is before or after the elections."
The PPP leader denied any possibility of his party boycotting the elections. "Any political force which gives another a chance to storm in would be making a mistake. A boycott is not the solution, participation is."
He also said that if the PPP talks to anyone "it will be on a paper diagram... you give me this I'll give you that... we will not show anyone any democratic goodwill."