Permanent Exemption for Zardari in Illegal Assets Case

Permanent Exemption for Zardari in Illegal Assets Case

Former Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari, accused of illegally amassing wealth, was today exempted from appearing before a court in future hearings.

Rawalpindi Accountability Court Judge Khalid Ranjha granted Zardari, the Pakistan Peoples Party co-chairman, exemption from appearing before it, permitting him to be represented by his lawyer in upcoming hearings of the case.

Zardari, 59, had failed to appear for the hearing twice, citing reasons of poor health and lack of security.

The court has summoned witnesses for the next hearing of the case scheduled to take place on June 2.

According to Zardari's counsel Amjad Iqbal Qureshi, the court premises are highly unsafe for the former president as well as for his lawyers.

There were almost eight to nine gates through which one can enter the premises of the court which he said signified inadequate security, Dawn quoted Qureshi as telling the court.

The court in garrison city of Rawalpindi is hearing a case of corruption registered in 2001 against Zardari, who is accused of making illegal assets in 1990s when his wife Benazir Bhutto was the prime minister.

The case has dragged on for years due to several reasons.

It was dropped in 2007 under a controversial political deal with former military ruler Pervez Musharraf but later it was reopened on the Supreme Court order.

Zardari enjoyed immunity as the President during his tenure from 2008 to 2013.

He once again faces the law when anti-corruption watchdog - National Accountability Bureau (NAB)- reopened the case last month.

Sources said that reopening of the reference was necessary to seek mutual legal assistance from Switzerland for repatriation of Zardari's assets for which the government had recently written to Swiss authorities, the report said.

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