Former President Asif Ali Zardari Barred From Leaving Pakistan

On December 27th, former Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari was barred from leaving the country  along with his sister Faryal Talpur, his son Bilawal Bhutto and his Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah. They were placed on the exit control list (ECL), numbering just a few of the 172 suspects placed on the list by Pakistan’s federal cabinet following the Joint Investigation Team’s report on the fake bank accounts case.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered the formation of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) in order to investigate a 2015 case involving fake bank accounts that laundered billions of rupees. According to Dawn news, the JIT report found that the Zardari Group, Bahria Town and Omni Group were complicit in laundering 42 billion rupees collectively through approximately 29 fake bank accounts. The troika transferred “billions of rupees of kickbacks and commissions through their front companies and contractors/builders.” The JIT investigated 11,500 bank accounts belonging to 924 individuals and companies associated with the fake accounts in order to probe suspicious activities.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry explained the necessity of placing the former president on the ECL by saying that the money lost by corruption “belongs to the people of Pakistan.” “I was watching Asif Ali Zardari say that he does not take the JIT seriously,” recalled the minister. “Hopefully, he will take it seriously after today. In the upcoming days, he will know the seriousness of this inquiry.”

Asif Ali Zardari is certainly no stranger to allegations of corruption since they have accompanied his expansive political career for decades, however no formidable action has ever actually been taken against him. In 2018, however, Imran Khan was elected as prime minister of the country and vowed to combat large-scale corruption and as a result the new government has shown its full support for the JIT.  Zardari’s future therefore seems bleak, especially considering former Prime Minister Nawaz Shariff was recently jailed for corruption.

Khan seems to be delivering on the promises he made during his election campaign, showing the public that even the upper echelons of the country are not immune from the law and must inevitably face the consequences of their actions. Proper investigation and swift justice would restore faith in the rule of law and could possibly discourage others from pursuing corruption to enrich themselves. Dismantling corruption could therefore be the right track Pakistan needs to develop itself.