KARACHI: Former president Asif Ali Zardari has played down the significance of the discovery of bank accounts in the name of labourers and vendors by saying that businessmen maintain such accounts to “avoid complications”.

He went on to claim in an interview to a private TV channel on Thursday that if such an account were traced to him, he would be able to prove that he had “earned the money in a lawful manner”.

“It’s a normal business practice, especially in Karachi, to stash away big amounts in such bank accounts to avoid several complications,” the Peoples Party leader said in the interview.

Mr Zardari conceded that the practice was illegal, but at the same time advocated legislation to enable the business community to make profits as well as stay on the right side of the law.

Ex-president claims he will justify legality of such amount if proved it belongs to him

“First they [government institutions probing money laundering] need to prove that I went there [bank branches] and opened all these accounts,” he said in reply to a question.

“If they succeed in doing so, I will definitely say I own this money. It’s my money and it’s up to me to keep it anywhere.”

The host of the show, after overcoming his amazement at Mr Zardari’s claim, asked him why the poor people who “own such bank accounts never knew” about them.

He replied with a straight face: “If they never knew about such accounts, it’s nobody’s fault other than banks. The banks concerned should be asked to explain why they did not take the people into confidence.”

Just a day after offering “cooperation and harmony” to Prime Minister Imran Khan, Mr Zardari came up with a caveat — the offer applied exclusively to issues of “national significance” which demanded of all politicians to “rise above partisan politics”.

The former president predicted a “tough time ahead” for Prime Minister Imran Khan because “the world economy is heading for a slowdown” and “international concern about Afghanistan is growing”.

“I think every government should be given at least six months to justify itself in power,” he said in reply to a question about the launch of any anti-government movement by the opposition.

“But for them [PTI government] I see hard times well before the completion of six months,” Asif Zardari added.

Published in Dawn, November 2nd, 2018