Pakistan court orders release of ailing ex-president Zardari

In a file photo taken on April 8, 2012, then Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari (right) waves while arriving at the Palam Airfield with his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (left) in New Delhi. PHOTO: AP

ISLAMABAD (AP) - A Pakistani court ordered on Wednesday (Dec 11) that ailing former president Asif Ali Zardari be released on bail on medical grounds, so that he can seek medical treatment at a hospital of his choice in the country.

The development came about five months after Zardari, the widower of the country's assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, was arrested by Pakistan's anti-graft body in a multimillion-dollar money laundering case.

Shortly after the court order, Zardari's son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who heads the key opposition Pakistan People's Party, claimed that the days of the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan were numbered.

He told reporters that once he recovers, his father will launch a campaign to oust Khan's government.

Former president Zardari, a lawmaker in the Lower House of Parliament, has been accused of having dozens of bogus bank accounts, a charge he denies, saying he was being politically victimised by Khan's government.

Since coming to power, Khan has pledged that his government would make good on his election campaign promise to fight corruption on all fronts.

Zardari, who was arrested in June, was expected to to be freed later on Wednesday.

Pakistan's anti-graft body has arrested several politicians and businessmen on corruption charges since Khan took office last year after winning a narrow majority in parliamentary elections.

Khan's predecessor, Nawaz Sharif, was removed from office by the country's Supreme Court over corruption allegations in 2017.

Sharif is currently undergoing medical tests in London after being released on bail on medical grounds.

Sharif and Zardari are long-time political rivals but their parties have vowed to launch protests against Khan's government over increasing inflation and a spike in prices of essential foods.

Zardari became president in 2008, after Pakistan's former military dictator Pervez Musharraf was forced to resign. Zardari's wife Benazir Bhutto served twice as a prime minister before being killed by the Taleban in 2007. Zardari served as Pakistan's president until 2013.

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