Pakistan’s ex-president and leader of one of the country’s main political parties, Asif Ali Zardari, was named in a money-laundering investigation weeks before national elections.
The Supreme Court in a statement sent to Bloomberg listed Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur along with 12 others as beneficiaries in an alleged scam “running into billions of rupees” that led to the arrest of Hussain Lawai, the chairman of the Pakistan Stock Exchange. Lawai has denied any wrong doing and remained under investigation on a four-day remand. Executives from local lenders Sindh Bank, Summit Bank and United Bank were summoned to appear before the top court on Thursday to testify over alleged fake account transactions.
The opening of the investigation ahead of the July 25 ballot will be seen as fortuitously timed for Imran Khan’s Movement for Justice party, or PTI, which has led a hard-charging anti-corruption campaign and is weeks away from its best shot at power.
Khan’s main political rival, former premier Nawaz Sharif, was handed a 10-year jail sentence last week by an anti-graft court. The allegations against Zardari may dent support for the Pakistan Peoples Party, which he co-heads with his 29-year-old son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.
The recent court rulings and probe “appear to have tipped momentum heading to the election in favor of Imran Khan’s PTI,” Exotix Capital analysts Christopher Dielmann and Hasnain Malik said. A Gallup Pakistan poll published last week showed Khan’s party had closed the gap on Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, with the PPP trailing third.
Zardari, 62, rose to prominence in the 1990s as the husband of former PM Benazir Bhutto. He developed a reputation for corruption.