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Central & South Asia
Zardari acquitted in drugs case
Decision ends final criminal case against head of Pakistan's coalition government.
Last Modified: 19 May 2008 17:01 GMT
Zardari, right, was accused of drug trafficking in 1997 by the government of Nawaz Sharif, left [AFP]
The widower of Benazir Bhutto, the country's former prime minister, has been acquitted by a Pakistani court of a decade-old drug-smuggling charge, the last outstanding criminal case against him.
 
Asif Ali Zardari leads a coalition government in Pakistan which was formed after Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) won elections in February.
He was accused of drug trafficking in 1997 by the government of Nawaz Sharif, the then prime minister, whose party came second in February's poll and joined Zardari's coalition.
 
Zardari succeeded Bhutto as head of the PPP after her assassination in December.
'Fake' charge
 
Latif Khosa, Zardari's lawyer, said he had asked a court in the eastern city of Lahore to acquit his client because the charge was politically motivated and had not been proven.
 
Khosa said: "I argued before the judge that this case, like the other cases, was meant to politically defame Mr Zardari.
 
"I told the court that dragging out this case would be an abuse of the law. It's fake and fabricated.

"I pleaded to the court that this black chapter be closed and Mr Zardari be respectfully acquitted. The court accepted my plea," he said. 

He said there were no more cases outstanding against Zardari.

In recent weeks courts have cleared Zardari of several criminal cases including one of conspiracy to kill his estranged brother-in-law, Murtaza Bhutto, whom police shot dead in 1996.

Bitter enemy

Several corruption cases against Zardari, both in Pakistani courts and abroad, have also been quashed under an ordinance introduced by Pervez Musharraf, the country's president, late last year.

It also granted an amnesty to Bhutto, Zardari and several other politicians.

Zardari, who served as a cabinet minister in his wife's cabinet in the 1990s, spent a total of 11 years in jail but was never convicted.

Sharif, who was a bitter enemy of both Bhutto and Zardari in the 1990s, formed a coalition government with the PPP after the February elections.

However, he pulled his Pakistan Muslim League ministers out of the cabinet on May 13 after failing to resolve a disagreement with Zardari over the restoration of judges sacked by Musharraf last year.

Source:
Agencies
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