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Pakistan's former president appears in court

Updated: 2014-01-09 14:23
( Xinhua)

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan's former president Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday appeared before an anti-graft court in corruption cases for the first time since he has stepped down in September.

Judge of the National Accountability Court did not frame charges against Zardari and adjourned the hearing until January 18, his two defense lawyers said.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had ordered reopening of five corruption cases against the former president in October just few weeks after he stepped down on completion of his five- year term.

Zardari's defense lawyer, Farooq H Naek said his client appeared in a case related to the illegal construction of a Polo Ground in the Prime Minister's House from government money during the government of his spouse Benazir Bhutto.

Farooq Naek told reporters that he would file an application for exemption of Zardari from personal appearance if the court again ordered his appearance.

"The former president appeared before the court as we believe in the rule of law. Asif Zardari is a brave man and if necessary he would again appear in the court," he said.

Former interior minister and a leader of Zardari's Pakistan Peoples Party, Senator Rehman Malik, said that Zardari appeared in the court despite security threats.

None of the case had been heard for five years due to Zardari's immunity as the president. The former president, the co-chairman of the main opposition Pakistan People's Party, now eyes a biggest political role.

Zardari faces five corruption cases that are related to favoratism, misuse of power by Zardrai during his party's previous government of his slain spouse Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and allegedly receiving kickbacks in awards of contracts.

Officials say the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had not approached the court for reopening of the cases as ministers say it does not want political polarization. However, the anti- graft bureau had reopened the five references cases.

Former president Pervez Musharraf had withdrawn all cases against Zardari under a controversial amnesty deal in 2007.

The Supreme Court had later canceled the National Reconciliation Ordinance and reopened all corruption cases against Zardari and nearly 8,000 other people including political leaders and former government officials.

In October, Swiss authorities, who were contacted by the present government to reopen the pending graft cases against Zardari, rejected the plea on the ground that the time limits have passed.

Then Pakistan People's Party-led government had initially refused to send a letter to Swiss authorities for reopening the cases. It had argued that since Zardari was the president, he enjoyed immunity.

Zardrai's PPP has criticized revival of the cases but said the former president will defend himself in courts.

The party's lawyer, Farooq Naek, said that none of the corruption charge has been proved against Zardari and these cases had been registered for political motives.

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