Regime Snubbed as Asif Zardari is Acquitted by Lahore High Court
M T Butt
Sept 9: Jailed PPP leader and Benazir Bhutto’s husband Asif
Ali Zardari scored another significant victory on Sept 9 when
the Lahore High Court acquitted him in a corruption case, setting
aside the 7-year jail term given to him by a special court.
court victory in the Pakistan Steel Mills case came days after
a sitting Prime Minister, Choudhry Shujaat Hussain, who later
resigned to make way for Shaukat Aziz, declared the drug smuggling
case against Zardari as fake.
has now been acquitted or bailed out in 8 cases while he is still
being detained under the BMW Import Duty case in which his bail
application is pending with the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
record of acquittals and bails has confounded the military rulers
who keep on adding new cases against the PPP leader as he is freed
in old ones, despite the immense pressure used by the Army on
the Supreme Court grants him bail in the BMW case, Zardari would
have to be released by the military regime, unless some new case
is registered. But since he is in jail since November 1996, there
is hardly any room left for accusing him of any other criminal
PPP leader Benazir Bhutto hailed the judgment of the Lahore High
Court terming it the "triumph of justice".
said the verdict shows that those who show patience and persevere
are ultimately rewarded, adding that the decision "demonstrates
that despite the clouds of darkness, the light of conscience prevails
in our land."
decision by two Judges of the Lahore High Court was expected several
months back. Suddenly the bench constituted of Judges Maulvi Anwar
ul Haq and Justice Aslam was broken up. After a long, legal struggle
and applications before the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the Bench
hearing the appeal was allowed to announce its landmark judgment.
The Bench declared that Mr. Zardari should be immediately set
free if he was not needed in any other matter.
first time Mr. Zardari was ordered free by a court was in 1998.
But another case was filed to stop him from his release. Mr. Zardari
was arrested on the night of November 4, 1996 initially under
one preventive detention law known as the Lahore Maintenance of
Public Order and then under a second Karachi Maintenance of Public
was acquitted in two attempted suicide cases, one murder case
(Sajjad case), one corruption case known as KESC whereas the conviction
in the SGS case was also set aside in 2001. The Steel Mill case
is the eighth case in which Mr. Zardari has been granted relief
by the judiciary. However, there are still 14 more cases against
him. He is on bail in all the cases except the BMW case.
BMW case is so ridiculous it makes a mockery of law and justice
in Pakistan. It revolves around import of a second hand car by
someone other than Mr. Zardari. The duty on the second hand car
was re-evaluated by the regime and a small percentage of disputed
deficit was recorded as payable duty.
December 2001 Mr. Zardari is languishing in prison on the basis
of the BMW case, which was initiated by NAB under Gen. Musharraf.
Usually cases of disputed duty do not result in any arrest, either
of the importer or buyer. But Zardari has been kept in jail shamelessly.
ordeal in the Steel Mills case began in 1996 when Steel Mills
Chairman late Sajjad Hussain was arrested by NAB headed by disgraced
Senator Saifur Rahman. Mr. Hussain was tortured and tried to commit
suicide to avoid a third arrest by the NAB authorities. His wife
filed an affidavit before the Sindh High Court documenting the
torture and threats to kill meted out to Mr. Hussain if he refused
to implicate a "VVIP" meaning Mr. Zardari.
the Chairman Mr. Hussain was killed amid doubts whether it was
a planned murder by the State or the result of random violence,
which had plagued the city of Karachi.
LHC Rawalpindi bench set aside the conviction awarded by the Accountability
Court on October in dubious circumstances. The judgment was announced
at 9 pm at night, after military authorities stopped the judge
from giving his verdict during court hours.
prosecution had claimed that a meeting allegedly took place between
Asif Zardari and the Steel Mill Chairman on September 14, 1995
between 6.30 pm and 7 pm in the Prime Minister’s house regarding
the prosecution’s case fell apart during examination. A
witness deposed that Mr. Zardari was accompanying the Prime Minister
to Lahore that day and could not have met Steel Chairman at Islamabad
as the prosecution claimed.