ISLAMABAD: Former president and leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party Asif Ali Zardari was on Tuesday remanded in the custody of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for 10 days in the fake bank accounts case.

Judge Mohammad Arshad Malik of the accountability court in Islamabad while granting the remand directed NAB to produce the ex-president before the court on June 21.

During a brief conversation with journalists before the commencement of court proceedings, Mr Zardari alleged that interior minister retired brigadier Ejaz Shah was behind his arrest. He believed his arrest was part of pressure tactics, he said without elaborating further.

Former president sees Interior Minister Brig Ejaz Shah behind his arrest

“Selected Prime Minister Imran Khan knows nothing about what is happening in the country and the interior minister is managing the affairs,” said Mr Zardari.

The PPP has been strongly opposing the induction of Mr Shah, former head of the Intelligence Bureau (IB), in the federal cabinet since day one, as he is one of the persons named by the slain chairperson Benazir Bhutto in a letter written to then president Pervez Musharraf on Oct 16, 2007 for hatching a conspiracy against her. According to US lobbyist Mark Siegel, former chief minister and incumbent speaker of Punjab Assembly Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi and former spymaster Lt Gen Hameed Gul were the other names.

In response to a question about his claim that the NAB chairman had no courage to arrest him, Mr Zardari replied that he still believed so and claimed that retired brigadier Shah was behind his arrest.

He said the “arrest of politicians” was a hallmark of third world politics. In future Imran Khan would flee to London, he said. He said “unelected leaders” never preferred going to jail as they didn’t need to turn to the people to secure votes.

Asked if there was a minus-one formula behind his arrest and that of the leadership of other political parties, Mr Zardari said: “This doesn’t matter. If I am not there, Bilawal will lead. After Bilawal, Aseefa would take the charge.”

Later he spoke to his children through the mobile phone of PPP leader Rukhsana Bangash when he entered the courtroom and then smoked a cigarette. On being reminded by a reporter that he was sitting in the courtroom, the former president said this would turn into a court when the judge would come and sit in his chair.

When the case was finally taken up, deputy prosecutor general of NAB Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi requested the judge to grant 14-day remand of Mr Zardari as the anti-graft watchdog required the custody to investigate bank transactions of billions of rupees. He alleged that the said transactions had been done through front men and benamidars.

The counsel for the ex-president, Farooq Naek, apprised the court that his client had already furnished surety bonds and the court had taken cognizance of the matter after which the NAB chairman issued his arrest warrants. As the arrest warrants were issued after the reference had been filed, the same were issued without any legal standing, Mr Naek argued.

The court, however, granted 10-day physical remand with a directive to NAB to produce him again on June 21. The judge allowed him to meet his family members during this period.

Reaction of interior minister

Talking to the media, federal Interior Minister retired Brig Ejaz Shah said he didn’t know why the PPP had certain reservations against him. He told a reporter to ask the PPP why they had certain apprehensions about him.

When he was asked about the claim of Mr Zardari that Mr Shah was behind his arrest, the interior minister said the PPP leader himself had once said iss tarah tau hota hai is tarah kai kamon mein (it’s all part of the game). “As he himself said this was all part of the game, why you are asking me the question,” said Mr Shah.

Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2019