After travel ban, will Pakistan’s ex-president Zardari be arrested?

Zardari during a press conference in Islamabad on June 28, 2018. (AFP)

Speculation is rife in Islamabad’s power corridors over whether authorities will arrest Pakistan’s former President Asif Ali Zardari and his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, both embroiled in money laundering allegations.

Last week, the government slapped a travel ban on Zardari and his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. The news agitated Zardari’s supporters and party workers nationwide.

The former leader was among 172 influential figures on the list, including the incumbent chief minister of Sindh province, as well as key ministers of his provincial government, bureaucrats and bankers.

The investigation

In September, Pakistan’s Supreme Court formed a six-member Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to probe the money laundering and fake accounts case allegedly involving Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur.

The Supreme Court then banned the trading and transfers of the properties of the Zardari Group, real estate group Bahria Town and Omni Group (allegedly owned by Zardari and his close aides).

Federal information Minister Fawad Chaudhary told reporters last week that government was ready to take the bull by the horns following the JIT report.

Political analyst and commentator Raza Rumi said travel ban on Zardari would lead to a polarized political environment. (Supplied)

Political analyst and commentator Raza Rumi said travel ban on Zardari would lead to a polarized political environment. (Supplied)

“The JIT had found evidence of how Zardari allegedly laundered money through fake bank accounts and companies. Government will not spare the looters and plunders of national wealth,” Fawad told journalists in Islamabad.

When contacted by Al Arabiya English for comment, concerned authorities refused to confirm or deny reports that Zardari and son could soon be arrested. However, leaders of Zardari’s political party fiercely responded to the speculations.

“It takes heart to arrest Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the co-chairman of Pakistan People Party (PPP). Such a move could plunge the country into chaos,” Khursheed Shah, former leader of opposition and a central leader of Bhutto’s PPP told journalists in Lahore on Sunday.

Polarized environment

Political analyst and commentator Raza Rumi told Al Arabiya English that the travel ban on Zardari would lead to a polarized political environment.

“It is going to polarize the country’s politics further and is not a good omen for the democratic transition which is on the way. Never is the opposition crushed. Even through a legitimate accountability drive, they cry of political victimization and that is not a good sign for the future of political stability in the country.

Last week, the government slapped a travel ban on Zardari and his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. (Supplied)

Last week, the government slapped a travel ban on Zardari and his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. (Supplied)

“At this time, Pakistan needs political stability more than anything else due to the economic situation. If there is no political stability, then economic stability will not be achieved,” Rumi said.

Zardari, who was president from 2008 to 2013, has previously been accused of corruption and money laundering, widely becoming known in the country as “Mr. Ten Percent.”

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Dismissing the recent allegations, Zardari responded angrily and branded the government an instrument of country’s powerful military.

While addressing a rally marking the 11th death anniversary of his wife Benazir Bhutto, Zardari labeled Prime Minister Imran Khan the army’s “blue-eyed boy.”

Khan has pledged to quash rampant corruption and recover billions siphoned from the country.  His government is currently scrambling to shore up Pakistan’s deteriorating finances and fast-depleting foreign exchange reserves.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 14:04 - GMT 11:04
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