Pakistan court dismisses graft case against Zardari

A Pakistani court dismissed one of two corruption cases against the widower of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto on Wednesday, his lawyer said, in a step towards clearing the way for him to hold government office.

Pakistan court dismisses graft case against Zardari
Bhutto's husband, Asif Ali Zardari, led her Pakistan People's Party (PPP) to election victory on Feb. 18 and he is forming a coalition government with other parties.

Zardari's lawyer, Farooq Naik, said a court dismissed one of two outstanding cases against his client as it fell within the ambit of an October presidential ordinance that wiped out graft charges against Bhutto, Zardari and others, introduced as part of a power-sharing deal with Bhutto.

"The judge ordered he stand acquitted and the case stand terminated and withdrawn," Naik told reporters.

Naik said a court would rule on the the final case against Zardari on Friday.

Zardari did not run in the Feb. 18 vote, in which his party rode a wave of sympathy after Bhutto's murder on Dec. 27. The party finished with the most seats but not enough to rule alone.

Pakistanis convicted of a crime are barred from standing for election and while Zardari has never been convicted, corruption cases have been hanging over him, raising doubts about his future.

A prime minister and cabinet members must be elected to parliament.

Although Zardari has said he would not try to become prime minister, in recent days some members of his party have called for him to go for the top job, raising speculation he might try to win a seat in a by-election and become prime minister.

Naik said a high court in Bhutto's home province of Sindh had also ordered the government's anti-graft agency to withdraw all cases against Zardari in foreign countries.

Both Bhutto and Zardari had faced corruption cases in Switzerland and Spain.

Agencies
Last Mod: 12 Mart 2008, 16:39
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