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KARACHI/LAHORE: While the Pakis­tan Peoples Party (PPP) on Wednesday decried what it called ‘pre-poll rigging’ ahead of the July 25 election, party’s co-chairman and former president Asif Ali Zardari said the PPP would neither boycott the polls nor would ‘go with undemocratic forces’.

As election boycott was no solution to the issues facing the country, the PPP would not adopt this option, said Mr Zardari in an interview aired on a private TV channel the day the party’s central election cell said it had been receiving various reports of “pre-poll rigging” and “intimidation of party workers and candidates”.

The PPP election cell, however, believed “the candidates, who have a long history of democratic struggle, will not succumb to such tactics”.

The allegations, which came after similar complaints made by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, marked the PPP’s first open criticism of the electoral process.

PPP co-chairman, sister Faryal skip FIA probe appearance; SC set to take up ‘fake’ accounts case today

About the 11-year imprisonment handed down to Mr Sharif by an accountability court, Mr Zardari said only time would decide the fate of the PML-Nawaz leader’s politics.

In reply to a question, he said Mr Sharif — and not he — enjoyed support [of the establishment].

Rejecting money-laundering allegations against him, the PPP leader said a notice about Rs15 million transactions had been sent to him but the media reported it as Rs35 billion. He said he was not involved in the day-to-day affair of his firms. Besides, he said he was busy in the preparations for upcoming general elections.

Answering a question, he opposed accountability when the elections were around the corner. He said accountability of politicians should be held either before or after polls and not during election time.

Asked if the army and intelligence officials are made part of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to probe charges against him, the former president said they had been included in JITs in the past as well. But he expressed reservations over the role of the men in uniform in JITs.

Earlier on Wednesday two lawyers belonging to the firm of Mr Zardari’s lawyer Farooq H. Naek appeared before the FIA team and sought time after the general elections on the ground that their clients were busy in the election campaign.

A senior official of the FIA told Dawn that the lawyers sought time to submit the reply of their clients to an FIA notice.

The official said the FIA had issued notices to all 13 beneficiary firms, including the Zardari Group, and almost all of them had submitted their replies, except the former president’s firm.

The FIA official hinted that they were not ‘satisfied’ with Mr Zardari’s response and might issue another notice asking him and his sister to appear before the agency team.

He said the Supreme Court was expected to take cognizance of the progress of the case so far on Thursday (today) and issue directives to the FIA, which would be followed.

Mr Naek, in a written statement submitted to the FIA, questioned the timing of the (resumption of investigation into) the case after a gap of several years and said engaging his clients at this time would undermine their election campaign, that was a violation of the relevant articles of the Constitution.

He said the transaction in question had taken place in 2014 and his client (Mr Zardari) did not have the relevant record, including bank statements, to verify the transaction within ‘one day.’

The lawyer said that Mr Zardari was contesting election from NA-213 Nawabshah and was busy in the election campaign, which had also restrained him from obtaining/collecting relevant record to furnish a reply to the FIA.

The lawyer claimed that his client was not acquainted with facts of the transaction as he was ‘not concerned with the day to day affairs of the Zardari Group (Pvt.) Ltd’ nor did he had anything to do with the activities/banking transactions of the company.

Despite this, he said, Mr Zardari would appear before the investigators or ‘submit necessary reply through his advocate’ about the said transaction at ‘anytime between July 25 and July 31 after the elections.’

Therefore, the lawyer urged the FIA to grant time to his client until July 31 for a response to the FIA letter/notice.

An almost identical reply has also been submitted by the lawyer of Ms Talpur to the FIA.

The FIA investigation team along with vice chairman of the Summit Bank and removed chairman of the Pakistan Stock Exchange, Hussain Lawai, left for Islamabad to appear before the court in a case pertaining to transfer of Rs4.145 billion from one of 29 suspicious bank accounts to 13 companies.

FIA gets remand of Lawai

Meanwhile, a judicial magistrate granted three-day transitory remand of Hussain Lawai and co-accused Taha Raza to the FIA for their production before the Supreme Court in Islamabad, which is set to resume suo motu proceedings over the investigation into the fake accounts and suspicious transactions.

Judicial magistrate (South) M. Tariq Shahnawaz directed the investigating officer (IO) to produce the suspects on July 14 in his court with a report on progress in the investigation.

The FIA had arrested Mr Lawai and Mr Raza on July 6, accusing them of facilitating the opening of 29 ‘fake’ accounts in the Summit Bank, Sindh Bank and United Bank Limited.

On Wednesday, the IO produced them before the judicial magistrate on expiry of their physical remand and requested for their transitory remand to produce them before the SC and to complete investigations.

However, Shaukat Hayat and Haider Imam Rizvi, defence counsel for Mr Lawai, opposed the IO’s plea and said the media trial of his client was being conducted as the IO had produced the 72-year-old person in handcuffs in the court.

Published in Dawn, July 12th, 2018