Barrister Arsalan Raja
IN 1990, perhaps the first case under section 409, 409/109, Pakistan Penal Code & section 5(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, was registered against Asif Ali Zardari as a result of inquiry conducted by the State Bank of Pakistan as it was revealed that the officers of the nationalized banks by disregarding the rules and regulations of the State Bank had been advancing loans (17.10 million) to influential persons and their favourites in order to provide pecuniary benefits to them causing wrongful loss to the bank. Investigation of that case was also conducted by the FIA. The Sindh High Court in that case not only acquitted Asif Zardari but found all charges to be groundless.
In the year 1999 the then Provisional Government of Sindh filed a petition in the Sindh High Court against the order passed by Sessions Judge, Karachi when he (Session Judge) ordered that Mr Zardari was allowed the facility of air-conditioner on medical grounds. The Sindh High Court not only dismissed the application by the Sindh Government but also held that “So far the report of the Jail Superintendent pursuant to the Court’s order to the effect that none out of 28 superior class of UTP have been provided the facility of air-conditioner is concerned, no doubt the respondent being a member of Senate is superior class prisoner but the facility has been granted to him on medical grounds. On the ground of disparity amongst the prisoners of superior class, the facility on medical grounds cannot be withheld” Likewise in the year 1992, the case was registered against Asif Zardari under sections 13(f) and 16(b) of Pakistan Arms Ordinance, 1965 for allegedly carrying weapons without license. Mr Zardari was once again successful in obtaining bail in the case from the Sindh High Court on several legal grounds.
Similarly, in the year 1997 another case was registered against Asif Zardari under sections 409/109, PPC read with section 5(2) of Act II of 1947. The contents of the FIR were that the KESC signed the contract with Lahmayers without a competitive process, just to favour certain influential people with the ulterior motive, so that commission or kickback could be obtained. As per the contents of the FIR the then Chief Engineer, KESC and Asif Ali Zardari being public servants abused their official position and committed the criminal breach of trust as such a public servant causing pecuniary advantage, either to themselves or to their representatives to the tune of US $10 to 15 million and a corresponding loss to the public ex-chequer. Predictably, Mr Zardari was successful in getting bail in that case from the Sindh High Court on the medical grounds.
Mr Zardari was also nominated as accused in the famous Mir Murtaza Bhutto murder case in the year 1996. Unsurprisingly, the Court in the year 2008, not only acquitted Mr. Zardari in that case but also acquitted all 18 policemen in a case pertaining to the murder of Murtaza Bhutto and his associates. In the year 1997, FIR was registered against Mr Zardari under sections 409/420/109, P.P.C. sections 156(1) and (8) and 14 of the Customs Act, 1969 read with section 5(2) of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947 for allegedly cheating, criminal breach of trust, abuse of official position, smuggling and evasion of tax. Precisely the facts of that F.I.R. were that during the course of inquiry conducted by FIA, Asif Zardari by abusing his official position as holder of public office in collusion with the Managing Director, PIA and Collector of Pakistan Customs, intentionally deviated from the settled procedure/rules relating to the export/air lifting of huge consignment comprising of 8 wooden packages without paying/releasing the prescribed duty/taxes and freight charges leviable and thereby caused loss to the Government exchequer by deriving corresponding wrongful gains. The Sindh High Court in the year 2008 also quashed the proceedings of the aforesaid case purely on numerous legal grounds.
The NRO that was promulgated in Oct 2007 by the government of the then President Musharraf under which all the cases against politicians were removed, paving the way for many of their return to country however the cases against Mr Zardari were reopened when the NRO was set aside by the SC in 2009 and all the cases were tried and he had been acquitted in all of them. Also In 2015, The Accountability Court acquitted Mr Zardari in several NAB references involving alleged possession of assets beyond his known sources of income. Asif Ali Zardari has been once again arrested in the fake accounts and money laundering cases registered under Sections 419, 420, 468, 471, 109 of the Pakistan Penal Code & Section 5(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947, and Sections 3 and 4 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2010, surely these cases are not new for him and not new for his legal team. It is to be seen whether the so-called competent investigation officers and prosecution officers of NAB can prove and establish the case in the court beyond reasonable doubt.
—The writer practices law in Karachi.