Now that former PM Nawaz Sharif seems poised to fly abroad to seek medical care after his bail was granted on medical ground, it is about time the court reviewed the case of the former President as well – who suffers despite not being convicted, writes Murtaza Solangi.
153 days ago, the notorious National Accountability Bureau (NAB) arrested former President Asif Ali Zardari in a controversial “Fake Account Case” after rejection of his bail by the accountability court. The former President, who is also a sitting member of the National Assembly and the President of his parliamentary party, was already put on the infamous Exit Control List last year on the eve of the 11th martyrdom anniversary of his spouse and former PM Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto.
The former President remains incarcerated under the accountability body created by former dictator General Musharraf, who himself is ironically absconding abroad to escape sedition charges.
NAB Continues Victimization As Political Parties Remain Disunited:
The NAB and its law created by the former military dictator to hound political opponents and making and breaking political parties remains in vogue thanks to the disunity of the political parties. It is one of the remnants of the dictatorial rule untouched by the project democracy – still limping since 2008. The bureau has enjoyed extra ordinary and arbitrary powers to incarcerate people without conviction for years. The body is known to be operating under a black law – and its objective is to victimise the opposition members.
Many lives have been destroyed while many allegations of wrong doings and abuse of power have come to the fore.
In May this year, a video clip revealing inappropriate relations between NAB’s all-powerful Chairman and a woman had emerged. Reacting to the development, the government had announced that the video leak would be investigated and its results would be shared with the people of Pakistan.
It has been 6 months since the video-leak episode, but there has been no progress in the ‘investigation’ that was promised.
Moreover, it has been conveniently forgotten that the opposition leaders had accused the government of leaking the video to pressurize the NAB to be easy on the government side in corruption cases and go all guns blazing against the opposition.
Since his arrest, no major headway in his case has taken place against Zardari. He remains under investigation, and his trial has yet to begin. He is not a convicted felon. Sadly, he has already spent over a decade in prison during the previous governments without any conviction. He was deprived of the right to raise his three children, who were raised by their mother, Shaheed Mohtrama Benazir Bhutto, mostly in self-exile.
According to the government doctors, his three heart arteries are blocked. His spinal injury requires constant management that is being denied in incarceration.
Zardari’s Health Condition Alarming:
Zardari is diabetic and has an unstable blood sugar. He has remained on Insulin while he was denied a small refrigerator to store his Insulin supplies. During this period, he has not been allowed to meet his private doctors and specialists even recommended by the NAB doctors. After his condition deteriorated, he was recently shifted to a government hospital by declaring the hospital premises as a sub-jail. All this time, he has cooperated with the accountability bureau in any questioning that hardly takes place.
The former President languishes in incarceration without conviction with serious health implications. So far, he has refused to seek bail.
Now that former PM Nawaz Sharif seems poised to fly abroad to seek medical care after his bail was granted on medical ground, it is about time the court reviewed the case of the former President as well – who suffers despite not being convicted. Most government functionaries under NAB investigation including Prime Minister Imran Khan have never stayed in prison, not even for a single day. And the entire process of accountability seems more of a witch-hunt and political vendetta. Therefore, it is about time we used some common sense and call this so-called ‘accountability’ process what it is: political vendetta.
Vengeance must come to an end. Let the investigation, if any, continue and let nobody stay in prison without conviction. It is time to set Asif Zardari free.
Murtaza Solangi is one of Pakistan’s top journalists, and former Director General of Radio Pakistan. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org