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Zardari acquitted of graft charge

Rawalpindi Accountability Court-3 judge Saghir Ahmed passed this order on the ground that no evidence was found in the BMW case against Zardari, reports Kamal Siddiqi.
Hindustan Times | By Kamal Siddiqi, Karachi
UPDATED ON MAR 15, 2008 04:03 AM IST

The Pakistan government on Friday acquitted Asif Ali Zardari, de-factor chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), in all corruption cases filed against him by the National Accountability Bureau.

The Rawalpindi Accountability Court-3 acquitted Zardari in the famous “BMW case”. Zardari has now been acquitted in all the cases filed against him.

Rawalpindi Accountability Court-3 judge Saghir Ahmed passed this order on the ground that no evidence was found in the BMW case against Zardari.

Most of these cases were filed by the government of President Pervez Mushrraf while there were some that were carried over from the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The National Accountability Bureau, earlier called the Accountability Cell, had been set up by the government to stem corruption and to bring corrupt politicians to book.

However, in the case of Zardari, it seems the investigators were unable to prove anything against the PPP leader despite keeping him in jail for over eight years, say analysts. Many say the timing of the acquittal is significant.

Political observers say that Zardari’s acquittal paves the way for his entry into public office and also signals a deal between the PPP and Musharraf’s government. While there are rumours that Zardari may be standing for Prime Minister, party officials have denied this. Zardari told journalists on Friday that the decision on the PM would be based on consensus.

The announcement by the government to give Zardari a clean slate comes ahead of the convening of parliament on Monday. The parliament will have its inaugural session that day and MPs elected in February’s general election will take oath. Following this, the names for Speaker and Deputy Speaker will be announced and a poll held to elect these representatives. The election of parliamentary office bearers will also indicate what strength the PPP and its electoral ally, the PML-N enjoy in parliament.

Zardari’s acquittal comes as there is a power struggle within the PPP over the choice of PM. Makhdoom Amin Fahim, who was tipped for the position by party officials and endorsed by heavyweights like Aitezaz Ahsan is in hot water.

In an interview with a local paper last week, Fahim complained of the delay in the announcement of his candidature and blamed certain individuals within the party of trying to block his path.

On Sunday, in what was seen as a clear snub to Fahim, he was not not invited to the historic meeting between Zardari and Sharif which culminated in the “Murree Declaration”.

Following this, however, the PML-N expressed its reservations over the choice of Fahim for PM. One senior PML-L leader, Khawaja Asif, alleged that Fahim was the “President’s man”. Fahim has sued Asif for damages.

On Friday, Fahim insisted that he was in the run for the post of PM after meetings with Zardari to sort out the issue. Zardari has not made any comment.

In the meantime, party officials have said that no decision on the PM has been taken so far.

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