Zardari acquitted in illegal assets case

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Ref. filed by NAB has no legal standing: Court
Staff Reporter

Rawalpindi

PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari was acquitted on Saturday by an accountability court in Rawalpindi in what was the final corruption reference still pending against him.
The case against the former president was based on a reference filed by the National Accountability Bureau during former president Pervez Musharraf’s era for allegedly acquiring assets through illegal means in Pakistan and abroad.
The request for Zardari’s acquittal, submitted by his counsel and PPP leader Farooq H. Naek, was accepted by Justice Khalid Mahmood Ranjha, who ruled that the reference lacked a legal basis. Zardari had previously been exempted from appearing in the case owing to security concerns.
The reference was filed before an accountability court in 2001, but was closed in 2007 under the National Reconciliation Ordinance issued by the government of retired Gen Pervez Musharraf.
However, the Supreme Court, in its verdict in the NRO case on December 2009, had ordered the revival of all cases closed under the ordinance. By then, however, Zardari had been sworn in as president and therefore enjoyed immunity under Article 248 of the Constitution.
Zardari has faced a total of six corruption references: apart from the assets reference, the former president was also implicated in the SGS, Cotecna, Polo Ground, Ursus Tractors and ARY Gold corruption references.
NAB re-opened these references once Zardari had completed his term office, but the former president had already been acquitted in five of the six references after a re-trial before the accountability court. The reference filed by National Accountability Bureau has no legal standing, stated the court order.
Earlier this month, the accountability court had reserved judgement on the petition seeking Zardari’s acquittal. PPP’s Farooq H. Naek represented the former president in the court.
The court had conducted day-to-day proceedings on the application under section 265-K of the Criminal Procedure Code in the nearly two decade-old corruption reference filed in 2001 and later closed in 2007 under the National Reconciliation Ordinance, issued by the government of retired Gen Pervez Musharraf.
Ex-president Zardari and his late wife and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, in the reference, had been accused of acquiring assets through illegal means.
After the verdict, Zardari’s lawyer Farooq Hamid Naek, while speaking to media, explained that the reference against his client was filed in 1998 under sections of Accountability Act 1997.
He added said that the reference alleged that Zardari had created illegal assets.
Naek further said the reference against the former president was filed by former NAB chairman Saif-ur-Rehman on Nawaz Sharif’s request and added that the accountability body failed to provide any evidence in the case.
“NAB’s investigating officer accepted that Asif Ali Zardari had no share in the sugar mills,” said Zardari’s legal counsel.
Naek said Zardari has been acquitted in eight corruption references. Six cases were filed during Nawaz Sharif’s tenure while two were filed during Pervaiz Musharraf’s tenure.
After the National Reconciliation Ordinance was passed, all references against Zardari had ceased to exist. Once the NRO was revoked, Zardari had immunity as the president of Pakistan. Another trial then commenced against Zardari when his presidential immunity ended

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