Sindh court drops all charges against Zardari

May 6th, 2008 - 5:47 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Benazir Bhutto
By Muhammad Najeeb
Islamabad, May 6 (IANS) The Sindh High Court Tuesday dropped all corruption and criminal cases against Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chief Asif Ali Zardari, once nicknamed Mr.Ten Percent for his alleged extortion and now considered amongst the country’s most influential persons. Zardari, elected co-chair of the PPP along with his 19-year-old son Bilawal after his wife and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s assassination in December, faced several cases, mostly filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) established by President Pervez Musharraf.

Zardari had filed a petition in the Sindh High Court for withdrawal of cases under the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), introduced by Musharraf last year in a bid to clear the PPP leadership to contest the February polls.

The ordinance was promulgated after the Musharraf administration held talks with Bhutto, who came back to Pakistan in October last year ending eight years in exile and was killed in Rawalpindi Dec 27.

In the last two months, Zardari has been cleared of 11 corruption charges. Now, with all the cases cleared, Zardari can be leader of his newly elected PPP-PML-N government under law.

Zardari, who is among Pakistan’s most powerful people along with army chief Ashfaq Kiyani, President Musharraf and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz chief Nawaz Sharif, effectively controls the party and government through his nominated Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani.

He had announced in London last month that he and his sister would participate in the by-elections; and if need be would contest to become the country’s next prime minister, even though his party voted by two-third majority to make Gillani prime minister for a five-year term.

However, on Monday, hours before the Election Commission’s announcement that the June 18 by-polls would be postponed by two months, the PPP said Zardari may not contest the elections.

Zardari is the son of a Pakistani industrialist Hakim Ali Zardari as well as chief of the Zardari tribe, a Baloch tribe from Sindh. He did most of his schooling from Saint Patrick’s High School, Karachi, also Musharraf’s alma mater.

Zardari, who married Benazir Bhutto on Dec 18, 1987, served as a member of the National Assembly and as environment minister during the second term of his wife’s premiership.

His last position in the government of Pakistan was as a senator until 1999 when the senate and assemblies were dissolved by General Musharraf, who took over the reins of the government in a coup against then prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

Zardari was dubbed Mr. Ten Percent by the opposition and media because of the alleged 10 percent extortion he forced on people during the PPP governments headed by his wife.

In 1990, Zardari was arrested on charges of blackmail. However, the charges were dropped when he was released from prison in 1993 when the PPP took power.

He was kept in custody from 1997 to 2004 on charges ranging from corruption to murder. Zardari has spent a total of 11 years in prison.

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