Early life and family
Member of National Assembly
Asif 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 Gen. Pervez Musharraf
, who took over the reins of the government in a coup against the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif
In 1990, Zardari was arrested on charges of blackmail
, based on allegations that he attached a bomb to a Pakistani businessman, Murtaza Bukhari
, and forced him to withdraw money from his bank account.
However, the charges were dropped when he was released from prison in 1993 when his wife's Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) took power and forced the charges out.
Initially he was interested in Finance Ministry. But Benazir opted to put him in a non-revenue generating department. So, Zardari was made the environment minister during Bhutto's tenure.
During that period he claimed in a televised news conference on STN
that every school in Pakistan has an Environment & Forestry department which motivates every student to plant one tree.
11 years in prison on the charges he has committed
He was kept in custody from 1997 to 2004 on charges ranging from corruption to murder. He was granted bail and released in November 2004 when a judge released Zardari under great pressure. However, he was re-arrested on 21 December 2004
after his failure to attend a hearing in a murder trial in Karachi
Soon after his re-arrest on 21 December,2004, audiotapes of conversations between the judge and some top aides of then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif were discovered that showed that the judge had been under pressure to declare Zardari free.
With both himself and his wife late Benazir Bhutto has denied corruption allegation, however, in August 2004, Zardari finally admitted owning a Ã‚Â£4.35m estate in Surrey
(including a 20-room mansion and two farms on 365 acres, or 1.5 kmÃ‚Â², of land), which the Pakistani authorities allege was bought with the proceeds of corruption[ citation needed
]. Legal proceedings brought by the then Government of Pakistan against Zardari to recover the sale proceeds of the property are continuing before the High Court of Justice
[ citation needed
]. In October 2006, the court dismissed Zardari's application to halt the proceedings on the basis that it did not have jurisdiction to hear the case[ citation needed
]. As of late 2007, Zardari is seeking permission to appeal that decision[ citation needed
French, Polish, Spanish, and Swiss documents have fuelled the charges of corruption against Bhutto and her husband. They faced a number of legal proceedings, including a charge of laundering money through Swiss banks
. Though never convicted, her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, spent eight years in prison on similar corruption charges. After being released on bail in 2004, Zardari suggested that his time in prison involved torture; human rights groups have supported his claim that his rights were violated.
A 1998 New York Times
claims that Pakistani investigators have documents that uncover a network of bank accounts, all linked to the family's lawyer in Switzerland, with Asif Zardari as the principal shareholder. According to the article, documents released by the French authorities indicated that Zardari offered exclusive rights to Dassault
, a French aircraft manufacturer, to replace the air force's fighter jets
in exchange for a 5% commission to be paid to a Swiss corporation controlled by Zardari. The article also said a Dubai company received an exclusive license to import gold into Pakistan for which Asif Zardari received payments of more than $10 million into his Dubai-based Citibank
accounts. The owner of the company denied that he had made payments to Zardari and claims the documents were forged.
Bhutto maintained that the charges levelled against her and her husband were purely political.An Auditor General of Pakistan
(AGP) report supports Bhutto's claim. It presents information suggesting that Benazir Bhutto was ousted from power in 1990 as a result of a witch hunt approved by then-president Ghulam Ishaq Khan. The AGP report says Khan illegally paid legal advisers 28 million rupees to file 19 corruption cases against Bhutto and her husband in 1990-92.
Yet the assets held by Bhutto and her husband continue to be scrutinized and speculated about. The prosecutors have alleged that their Swiss bank accounts contain Ã‚Â£740 million.
Zardari also bought a neo-Tudor
mansion and estate worth over Ã‚Â£4 million in Surrey
, England, UK.The Pakistani investigations have tied other overseas properties to Zardari's family. These include a $2.5 million manor in Normandy
owned by Zardari's parents, who had modest assets at the time of his marriage.
Bhutto denied holding substantive overseas assets.
On July 23
, the Swiss Government handed over documents to the government of Pakistan which relate to corruption allegations against Benazir Bhutto and her husband.
The documents included a formal charge of money laundering
by Swiss authorities against Zardari. The Pakistani government had been conducting a wide-ranging inquiry to account for more than $13.7 million frozen by Swiss authorities in 1997 that was allegedly stashed in banks by Bhutto and her husband. The Pakistani government recently filed criminal charges against Bhutto in an effort to track down an estimated $1.5 billion she and her husband are alleged to have received in a variety of criminal enterprises.
The documents suggest that the money Zardari was alleged to have laundered was accessible to Benazir Bhutto and had been used to buy a diamond necklace for over $175,000.
The PPP has responded by flatly denying the charges, suggesting that Swiss authorities have been misled by false evidence provided by the Government of Pakistan.
On August 6
, Swiss magistrates found Bhutto and her husband guilty of money laundering.
They were given six-month suspended jail terms, fined $50,000 each and were ordered to pay $11 million to the Pakistani government. The six-year trial concluded that Bhutto and Zardari deposited in Swiss accounts $10 million given to them by a Swiss company in exchange for a contract in Pakistan. The couple said they would appeal. The Pakistani investigators say Zardari opened a Citibank account in Geneva in 1995 through which they say he passed some $40 million of the $100 million he received in payoffs from foreign companies doing business in Pakistan.
In October 2007, Daniel Zappelli, chief prosecutor of the canton of Geneva
, said he received the conclusions of a money laundering investigation against former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on October 29
, but it was unclear whether there would be any further legal action against her in Switzerland.
investigating magistrate has amassed enough evidence, including the purchase of a diamond necklace, to indict Pakistan's former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto
and husband on money-laundering charges tied to contracts with two Geneva-based companies. The magistrate, Daniel Devaud, decided not to bring the charges against Ms. Bhutto in Switzerland, but rather to ask Pakistani authorities to indict her. The Geneva
magistrate has been conducting a wide-ranging inquiry seeking to account for more than $13.7 million frozen by Swiss authorities in 2006[ citation needed
The money was allegedly stashed in Swiss banks
The public proceedings were required to be dropped against Bhutto due to her death; however, the proceedings are still continuing against Zardari as of late December 2007.
The Polish Government has given Pakistan 500 pages of documentation relating to corruption allegations against Benazir Bhutto and her husband. These charges are in regard to the purchase of 8,000 tractors in a 1997 deal.According to Pakistani officials, the Polish papers contain details of illegal commissions paid by the tractor company in return for agreeing to their contract.
It was alleged that the arrangement "skimmed" Rs 103 mn rupees ($2 million) in kickbacks.
"The documentary evidence received from Poland confirms the scheme of kickbacks laid out by Asif Zardari and Benazir Bhutto in the name of (the) launching of Awami tractor scheme", APP
said. Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari allegedly received a 7.15% commission on the purchase through their front men, Jens Schlegelmilch and Didier Plantin of Dargal S.A., who received about $1.969 million for supplying 5,900 Ursus
Potentially the most lucrative deal alleged in the documents involved the effort by Dassault Aviation
, a French military contractor. French authorities indicated in 1998 that Bhutto's husband, Zardari, offered exclusive rights to Dassault to replace the air force's fighter jets in exchange for a five percent commission to be paid to a corporation in Switzerland controlled by Zardari.
At the time, French corruption laws forbade bribery of French officials but permitted payoffs to foreign officials, and even made the payoffs tax-deductible
. However, France changed this law in 2000.
In 1998-1999, an enquiry was conducted by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the Parliament to investigate the matter regarding the purchase of the helicopter. The case involves defrauding substantive sum of $2.168 million and $1.1 million public money. The record shows that the case was not pursued properly nor diligently. FIR No 1 of 1998 was registered with Federal Investigation Agency State Bank Circle Rawalpindi on the complaint of Cabinet Division. Thorough investigation was conducted by the committee headed by Chaudhry Muhammad Barjees Tahir
and two other members, namely Faridullah Jamali and Jamshaid Ali Shah. During this investigation the committee Chairman Barjees Tahir
summoned both the former President Farooq Leghari and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto along with others, and they were investigated. The case received extensive media coverage both inside and outside Pakistan. The recommendations of the committee, obtained from the file, are as under:
6.1: FIR may be lodged against (1) Malik Allah Yar Khan of Kalabagh (2) Zia Pervez Hussain (3) Dr M.A. Khan and criminal proceedings be instituted against them defrauding the government.
6.2: The amount of $2.168 million be recovered from Malik Allah Yar Khan, Zia Pervez Hussain and Dr M.A. Khan by attaching their properties etc in Pakistan or abroad for this purpose. FIA may be directed to take steps to recover this money through Interpol, if necessary. Any banker or foreign national involved in this fraud may also be taken to task by the Federal Investigation Agency
6.3: As Benazir Bhutto
, she is clearly responsible for this loss to exchequer as major decisions in respect of this contract were taken with her approval or direction and passed on to Cabinet Division through former PS PM (Ahmad Sadiq). FIR may be registered against her for causing loss to state by misuse of her authority as PM, and criminal proceedings
6.4: Farooq Leghari
knows that his name has visibly come up in this case. He has tried to plead innocent. It is unimaginable that those operating in this scandal could have easy access to the top bureaucrats like Cabinet Secretary, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister
and even to the Prime Minister herself without the backing and active support of the President. FIR against him must also be registered and criminal proceedings
6.5: As for the senior civil servants involved in the case, Ahmad Sadiq former PS PM, Humayun Faiz Rasul and Sahibzada Imtiaz former Cabinet Secretary, no action can be taken against them at this stage as they already stand retired/superannuated.
In the largest single payment investigators have uncovered, a gold bullion
dealer in Western Asia was alleged to have deposited at least $10 million into one of Zardari's accounts after the Bhutto government gave him a monopoly
imports that sustained Pakistan's jewellery industry. The money was allegedly deposited into Zardari's Citibank
account in Dubai
. Pakistan's Arabian Sea
coast, stretching from Karachi
to the border with Iran
, has long been a gold smugglers' haven. Until the beginning of Bhutto's second term, the trade, running into hundreds of millions of dollars a year, was unregulated, with slivers of gold called biscuits, and larger weights in bullion, carried on planes and boats that travel between the Persian Gulf
and the largely unguarded Pakistani coast.
Shortly after Bhutto returned as prime minister in 1993, a Pakistani bullion trader in Dubai, Abdul Razzak Yaqub, proposed a deal: in return for the exclusive right to import gold, Razzak would help the government regularize the trade. In November 1994, Pakistan's Commerce Ministry wrote to Razzak informing him that he had been granted a license that made him, for at least the next two years, Pakistan's sole authorized gold importer. In an interview in his office in Dubai, Razzak acknowledged that he had used the license to import more than $500 million in gold into Pakistan, and that he had travelled to Islamabad
several times to meet with Bhutto and Zardari. But he denied that there had been any corruption or secret deals. "I have not paid a single cent to Zardari," he said. Razzak claims that someone in Pakistan who wished to destroy his reputation had contrived to have his company wrongly identified as the depositor. "Somebody in the bank has cooperated with my enemies to make false documents," he said.
Bhutto's niece and others have publicly accused Bhutto of complicity in the killing of her brother Murtaza Bhutto in 1996 by uniformed police officers while she was Prime Minister.
Co-chairman of the PPP
After the assassination of Benazir Bhutto
, Mr. Zardari has reaffirmed his disinterest in the prime ministership
Chairman Zardari and Mian Nawaz Sharif
, leader of the PML-N
, along with some smaller political parties, joined forces in an electoral coalition that won a heavy majority in the elections and unseated Musharraf's ruling PML-Q. After the election, he called for a government of national unity, and divided cabinet portfolios among coalition partners on proportionate basis .
Asif Ali Zardari and former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said on February 21
that their parties would work together in the national parliament after scoring big wins in the election.
On 5th March 2008
Mr Zardari was cleared of five corruption charges[ citation needed
], including corruption and illegal use of property under NRO, the National Reconciliation Ordinance[ citation needed
]. He had another trial on the remaining charges on 12 April 2008
, when he was cleared under the same NRO[ citation needed
]. On 19 April 2008
Zardari announced in a press conference in London that he and his sister, Faryal Talpur
, would participate in the by-elections taking place on 3 June
and that, if necessary, he would contest to become the country's next Prime Minister, even though his party voted by a 2/3 majority to announce that Yousaf Raza Gillani
would be the PM for a five year term.
Candidate for the presidency following Musharraf's resignation
Mr. Zardari, in alliance with Nawaz Sharif
, was preparing to impeach Gen (retired) Parvez Musharraf
from the office of the presidency, and a charge-sheet and draft of impeachment had already been prepared, when Musharraf, in accordance with his advisors, resigned from the presidency on 18 August
Chairman Zardari has been confirmed by the CEC [Central Executive Committee] of the PPP
as well as endorsed by the rival ethnic party MQM
as candidate for President of Pakistan
There is nevertheless strong disagreement among the current coalition partners, and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's PML-N
party is threatening to leave the coalition as a result
. According to the Constitution, elections must be held within 30 days of the previous president stepping down. The electoral college is composed of the Senate, the National Assembly, and the four provincial assemblies.
Pakistan's Election Commission on August 22
announced that Presidential elections will be held on September 6
, and the nomination papers can be filed from August 26
Aitzaz says 'most' graft charges against Zardari & Benazir were justified.
WASHINGTON - Pakistan People's Party leader and prominent lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan says "most" allegations of corruption against Asif Ali Zardari and Benazir Bhutto were justified, but he also praises the fallen party chairperson's "courage and steadfastness".
"The type of expenses that she had and he has are not from sources of income that can be lawfully explained and accounted for," Ahsan was quoted as saying in the course of a 5,000 word article in The New York Times on the lawyers' movement and his central role in it. This, despite the fact that Ahsan defended the couple in 14 cases, including, according to him, "corruption against both," and in Zardari's case, "kidnapping, ransom and murder." "Ahsan is almost recklessly outspoken about PPP leaders, even though they are his own political patrons," wrote James Traub, a New York Times correspondent who spent time in Pakistan earlier this year researching the story, which is published the newspaper's Sunday magazine. Traub says Ahsan "speaks admiringly of Benazir Bhutto's courage and steadfastness but also points out with disdain that she viewed herself as the PPP's 'life chairperson'. And he does not bother to conceal his dim view of Zardari."
The report says that on a flight from Karachi to Sukkur in April, Ahsan was approached by Farooq Naek, the law minister, who asked him to mute his harsh criticism of Zardari and the party. Zardari had reached an agreement with Nawaz Sharif to reinstate the judges within 30 days of the formation of the new government, and Naek implored Ahsan to show some faith and trust. Ahsan agreed to act as if he accepted their bona fides, though he did not altogether. Ahsan says he believed that Zardari feared that Chaudhry and other apolitical judges might restore some of the cases against him that had been summarily dismissed. Beyond that, Ahsan recognised, according to Traub, that the PPPP was itself a feudal and only marginally democratic body led by a figure accused of corruption and violence. Zardari, Ahsan told the correspondent "flatly", "does not want independent judges. He wants dependent judges."
Tariq Mahmood, one of the lawyer leaders, told the newspaper that US ambassador Anne Patterson suggested to him that an opening might be found for Justice Chaudhry somewhere in the international bureaucracy, something that Mahmood saw as the "offer of a bribe to the Chief Justice of Pakistan." When New York Times asked Patterson to comment, she declined. Ahsan told the newspaper, "You can't have a democracy without an independent judiciary. And you can certainly not construct a parliamentary structure on the debris of the judicial edifice." Ahsan added, "There have been corrupt and vile chief justices in the past, but he (Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry) seemed to be a prince - the prince who challenges authority, defies his executioners and was prepared to go to the gallows holding his head up."
The report quotes Stephen Cohen, author of two books on Pakistan, as admitting that he "misjudged" the country's commitment to constitutional principles. He had called Pakistan in his 2004 book an "ideological ghetto, especially as far as its liberals are concerned." He told the newspaper correspondent, "But there truly was a liberal tradition in Pakistan, buried beneath six decades of dictatorship, corruption and religious extremism. I was struck by the deep sense of embarrassment, even shame, that many Pakistanis feel over their political and economic failures, and their sense of resentment about being viewed in the West as an Islamic autocracy."
Ahsan said, "We are and very much remain a South Asian Muslim country, sharing aspirations and history with India - due process, habeas corpus, mandamus, certiorari. We are not a Middle Eastern Arab Muslim country." About Ahsan's decision not to contest a by-election, Traub writes, "He had decisively chosen movement politics over party politics, and perhaps he was happiest there. Zardari and the PPP seemed to have increasingly thrown in their lot with Musharraf, appointing allies of the president to key posts. Ahsan was not worried that a new round of protests, this time directed in part at his own party, would divide the country." "There's enormous popular support for my position," Ahsan was quoted as saying. "And he was, as ever, blithe in the face of confrontation," Traub said. "I am comfortable," Ahsan told the correspondent from his home in Lahore. "I have no problem."