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Former Pakistani president formally charged with corruption

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Former Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari (R) is seen during a press conference in Islamabad, Pakistan, on June 28, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

A court in Pakistan has formally charged former president Asif Ali Zardari in two corruption cases.

The court, in the capital, Islamabad, charged Zardari with money laundering and other corruption charges on Monday.

Zardari, who served as president of Pakistan from 2008 to 2013, was released on bail on health grounds last December, six months after his arrest for corruption.

The former president has been accused of having dozens of bogus bank accounts, a charge he denies.

Zardari later told reporters he had not been surprised by the indictment, claiming that he had been politically victimized by Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government.

Zardari is the widower of the late Benazir Bhutto, who served twice as prime minister of Pakistan before she was assassinated in an attack in the garrison city of Rawalpindi in 2007. He came to power after Pakistan’s former military ruler Pervez Musharraf resigned in 2008.

In a separate development, the Pakistani Punjab provincial government admitted a case of sedition against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and 40 others, including the premier of the Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.

Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Party confirmed on Monday that authorities in Punjab had initiated a treason case against him and other party leaders.

The sedition case against Sharif is based on speeches he made in which he attacked the country’s powerful military for alleged political meddling. In one recent speech from exile in London, Sharif had accused the military of rigging the 2018 elections that brought Khan to power.

Pakistan’s military has directly ruled the country for roughly half of its 73-year history since independence from Britain in 1947.

The 70-year-old Sharif was previously sentenced to seven years in prison on corruption and money laundering charges stemming from disclosures in the Panama Papers. He was released on bail last year for several weeks to seek medical treatment abroad and has been in London since November 2019.

Prime Minister Khan has accused Sharif of “playing India’s game” and working to the benefit of the country’s enemies by criticizing the military. Since coming to power, Khan has vowed to make good on his election campaign promise to eliminate corruption.

Sharif’s PML-N is leading an alliance of opposition parties aimed at bringing down Khan’s government, which remains largely popular.

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