ISLAMABAD — The government has decided to place the name of former president Asif Ali Zardari – accused in the multi-billion rupee fake bank accounts case – including his sister Faryal Talpur, Chairman Bilawal Bhutto, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and all other suspects on the Exit Control List (ECL).
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Thursday announced that the federal cabinet has decided to place on the no-fly list all 172 suspects named in the joint investigation team’s damning report in the fake accounts and mega money laundering case.
Zardari, his sister MNA Faryal Talpur, Omni Group’s Anwar Majeed and his son Abdul Ghani Majeed, former Pakistan Stock Exchange chairperson Hussain Lawai, Summit Bank Senior Vice-President Taha Raza are among those being investigated by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for alleged money laundering of Rs42 billion through at least 32 fake bank accounts and identity thefts.
Referring to the recently submitted joint investigation team (JIT) report, the information minister added government means were used to steal and launder the money.
“People will take the accountability process seriously and the process will continue,” said Fawad while addressing a news conference following the conclusion of the weekly cabinet meeting.
“I was watching [PPP co-chairperson] 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.
“This is not purana Pakistan where the two big [players] make a deal. Now, each and every penny will be accounted for.”
Chaudhry explained that the decision to put all suspects on no-exit list was taken because “this money belongs to the people of Pakistan.” It must be recovered, he added.
The apex court had taken suo motu notice of the fake accounts case and instructed authorities to expedite the investigation. The Sindh government has repeatedly come under fire for lack of cooperation with the JIT probing the matter.
The top court on Monday banned the sale, purchase and transfer of properties owned by three business groups (Omni Group, Zardari Group, Bahria South Group) after the JIT submitted its report revealing that billions of rupees were laundered through more two and a half dozen fake bank accounts that had also been used to pay expenses of former president and his home.
The JIT report also claimed misdeclaration of assets by Zardari in his nomination papers submitted in the 2018 general elections.
Legal experts say that if JIT’s findings are proven true then Zardari may be disqualified for lifetime as lawmaker by the Supreme Court under Article 62 (1) (f) of the constitution.
Likewise, the most demeaning thing for PPP is that JIT has recommended filing of references against Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also.
The former president who is also PPP co-chairperson on Thursday vowed to fight his political opponents “in court and everywhere else” soon after it emerged that his name could be placed on the ECL in connection with the fake bank accounts case.
“Today, the thugs of the ladla have challenged us. We are not afraid of their tactics.
“As far as Bilawal [Bhutto] is concerned, he is the son of BB and I: how can you scare him?” he asked.
Bilawal, Zardari’s son and the PPP Chairperson, labelled the JIT report implicating his father and other leaders of his party as “lies and sham”, and claimed that it would not hold in the court where it “would be thrown in the trash can”.
He also launched a staunch defense of his father, reminding his party workers that the PPP co-chairperson had been acquitted in all past cases against him.