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News Analysis

Dr. Asim’s release took place on the day when Pakistanis were also listening to the international breaking news of the arrest of South Korean president on charges of corruption and misuse of office. President Park was impeached by the South Korean parliament a few days ago. She was accused of benefitting from bribes worth $38 million (Pak Rs. 4 billion approximately)

Dr. Asim Hussain, PPP leader and a close confidant of ex-President Asif Ali Zardari, walked as a free man on Friday. Earlier in the day, Sindh High Court had passed the release orders from prison, for former Petroleum Minister of Pakistan. Dr. Hussain has remained in prison for a total of 19 months on the charges of corruption. Prosecution had accused him of corruption, embezzlement and misuse of authority; figures of corruption losses to state revenue amounted to Rs. 462 billion. His lawyers had argued for his release on health grounds. Court remained split and matter had to be decided by a “referee judge” who ordered his release as per conventions of common law decisions, cited fro late 19th century in British India. He has now been shifted from Jinnah Post Graduate Medical Complex (JPMC) to Ziauddin Hospital, in Clifton; this is a hospital he owns and one prosecution charge was related to the land grab around the same hospital.

According to National Accountability Bureau, Dr. Asim, by creating an artificial shortage of gas, had deprived public exchequer of over Rs. 450 billion.

Earlier, Dr. Asim Hussain was granted bail in corruption cases on Wednesday – amidst open speculations and allegations on media, of a political deal between the Nawaz government and ex-president, Asif Ali Zardari. Asim’s release was, though, dependent on the condition that he submits his Pakistani and Canadian passports to the court. The passports could not be submitted immediately because as those were in possession of the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC), the reason being the other case against Dr. Asim Hussain. A request was filed by his attorney to remove this condition which was rejected by the court.

Today, the submission of passports, along with surety bonds worth Rs. 5 million, has allowed Dr. Asim to leave prison.

Read more: Millions of dollars were laundered by the Pakistani group – US.Report..

Dr. Asim: Charges of supporting terrorism and corruption

Dr. Asim Hussain, former President Asif Ali Zardari’s close friend, was defending himself in two different types of cases at the same time. One case against him was that he had treated and helped terrorists at his private facility, Zia ud Din Hospital, (where he was  now heading this evening from JPMC) thus aiding in the terrorist activities. For this he was taken into ‘preventive detention’ by the Rangers on August 27, 2015. Later, the case was sent to the ATC.

The bail paid by Dr. Asim Hussain – Rs. 5 million – holds no value when compared with the amount of corruption – over Rs. 450 billion.

Another serious allegation against him was that while holding the office of Federal Minister for Petroleum, he had carried out massive corruption. According to National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Dr. Asim, by creating an artificial shortage of gas, had deprived public exchequer of over Rs. 450 billion. Due to this act of his, the price of urea during that time period had risen from Rs. 850 to an unbelievable amount of Rs. 1830. Unsurprisingly, the amount has never been recovered from him.

Read more: Ayyan Ali case: Another nail in the coffin of Pakistan’s Criminal.Justice System..

Crime and Punishment in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan

Ex-religious affairs minister, Hamid Saeed Kazmi, was found innocent in the famous Haj Scandal in which initial complainant about him was the Saudi government. Ex-Sindh minister, Sharjeel Memon, who had disappeared from country and was in self-exile for the past two years has landed back with cosmetic arrest and bail and is moving in Sindh political arena like a hero.

Pakistani criminal justice system is notorious for its inability to prosecute rich and powerful. Even when serious and credible charges are brought against powerful personalities, they are  almost always cleared of all wrong doing, often on technical grounds. Cases keep on running for months and years without any conclusion till media and public loose interest in them. Ayyan Ali who was found in possession of half a million US dollars at Islamabad airport, and was discovered to have travelled out of the country more than 80 times in past years recently flew out of Pakistan. She sent selfies of her making victory signs from her flight. Despite widespread allegations of money laundering her case was never investigated by FIA, the agency considered competent in such matters. It was dealt mostly by Customs Intelligence, a department that lacked the reach and capacity to investigate such matters or her claims.

Dr. Asim’s release took place on the day when Pakistanis were also listening to the international breaking news of the arrest of South Korean president on charges of corruption and misuse of office. President Park was impeached by the South Korean parliament a few days ago. She was accused of benefitting from bribes worth $38 million (Pak Rs. 4 billion approximately) She was formally arrested on Friday. Dr. Asim was accused of corruption worth Rs. 462 billion; he was released on Friday.

Read: Ousted South Korean leader behind bars after arrest on bribery charges -Reuters

All Pakistani politicians accused of serious corruption have described  charges against them as “politically motivated”. Despite allegations of huge corruption against Dr. Asim, Oxford educated, Bilawal Zardari Bhutto, Chairperson of PPP, declared him to be a ‘political prisoner’.

Read Also: Ex-South Korean President Park Geun-hye arrested in corruption probe – BBC

Allegations of a Deal between Nawaz & Zardari? 

In the past 10 days several leaders of PPP have been seen getting out of their legal troubles. Ex-religious affairs minister, Hamid Saeed Kazmi, was found innocent in the famous Haj Scandal in which initial complainant about him was the Saudi government. Ex-Sindh minister, Sharjeel Memon, who had disappeared from country and was in self-exile for the past two years has landed back with cosmetic arrest and bail and is moving in Sindh political arena like a hero.

This surprising turn of events with the decisions on the two PPP men, happened, at a time when apparently, Asif Zardari has been mercilessly condemning PML-N government over the past two weeks – almost to the point of looking articificial. Many have wondered if it was a smoke screen to fool the public with strong rhetoric while political deals were being struck behind the scenes. PTI leader, Imran Khan has termed it all political dramas.

Pakistani media over the past few days had been discussing and speculating the nature of possible deal between Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Government. It is believed that political deck is being reorganized before the decision in Panama case. PTI had gone to Supreme Court on the issue, but PPP had refused joining on the plea that courts will not be able to find any decision and the matter must be decided in the parliament. Now PPP and PMLN leaders are seen to be striking a rapprochement before the court verdict.

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