ISLAMABAD: Former President Asif Ali Zardari yesterday warned of dire consequences as he rebuked the National Accountability Bureau for ‘targeting’ Pakistan Peoples Party. Earlier, in the day, the accountability watchdog announced to start inquiries against three former ministers belonging to the PPP. NAB Chairman Qamar Zaman Chaudhry during a meeting of the Executive Board here authorised action against Sindh Education Minister Pir Mazharul Haq, former Federal Communications Minister Dr Arbab Alamgir Khan and his wife Asma Alamgir – a former legislator.

Mazharul Haq faces allegations of illegal appointment of 13,000 teachers while Dr Arbab and his wife will be investigated for alleged accumulation of assets beyond known sources of income. The Executive Board also authorised investigation against former Balochistan Excise and Taxation Minister Mohammed Amin Umrani for making assets through corruption. The decision comes when the PPP is already under pressure after the arrest of Zardari’s close aide Dr Asim Hussain. The party has condemned the arrest of Dr Asim – a former petroleum minister – as politically motivated.

Beside Zardari, top party leaders including former Prime Ministers Yousaf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervez Ashraf also face corruption charges. On Wednesday, an accountability court in Rawalpindi adjourned the hearing of a corruption case against Zardari as NAB’s lawyer was unable to present witnesses. The PPP chief is alleged to have made illegal assets in 1990s when his wife Benazir Bhutto was the prime minister and he deposited the money from kickbacks in different Swiss banks.

In December 2014, an accountability court acquitted Zardari in two corruption references Ursus Tractors and the ARY gold import under the legal section 265-K of Criminal Procedure Code which authorises the concerning judge to set free an accused if he finds insufficient evidence against him. Zardari claims NAB’s accountability was against a ‘single party’. In a statement, he said, “NAB should better close down its offices and shift to PPP Secretariat”, adding, it seems except the PPP, “everything is fine countrywide.” The former president, who is the PPP co-Chairman, warned of far-reaching and dangerous consequences if the trend continued.

He said that the NAB, by ordering an inquiry against Arbab Alamgir, his wife Asma and Pir Mazhar ul Haq, confirmed the fears that only the PPP will be held accountable in the country and all others were out of NAB’s jurisdiction. Last month the PPP had taken the issue of ‘selective accountability’ to the Senate and claimed the ongoing campaign against corruption was in fact designed against the party. PPP leader Aitzaz Ahsan said his party does not defend corruption but the way the campaign against corruption was going on was giving an impression that “a particular party” is being targeted.

Another PPP Senator Saeed Ghani said it was unbearable that federal agencies crossed their constitutional limits and interfered in the affairs of the PPP-led Sindh government.

Opposition leader in the National Assembly Khurshid Shah has also been raising voice against the NAB for allegedly targeting the PPP and its leaders. Corruption has haunted the PPP for decades after founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s execution in 1979. In 1990 Benazir Bhutto’s first government was sacked by then President Ghulam Ishaq Khan on corruption charges. After the subsequent national elections, Nawaz Sharif became the prime minister and intensified prosecution proceedings against Benazir Bhutto. Pakistani embassies in France, Switzerland, Spain, Poland and Britain were directed to investigate the matter.

Benazir and Zardari faced a number of legal proceedings, including a charge of laundering money through Swiss banks. Though never convicted, Zardari, spent eight years in prison on corruption charges. After being released on bail in 2004, Zardari suggested that his time in prison involved torture. In 2006, after 15 long years an Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) report was brought forward when then military ruler Pervez Musharraf was trying to gain support from Benazir Bhutto. According to this report Benazir Bhutto was ousted from power in 1990 as a result of a witch hunt approved by then-President Ghulam Ishaq Khan. The AGP report said Khan illegally paid legal advisers Rs28 million to file 19 corruption cases against Bhutto and her husband in 1990-92.

Despite numerous cases and charges of corruption registered against Benazir Bhutto by Nawaz Sharif between 1996 and 1999 and Pervez Musharraf from 1999 till 2008, she was never convicted in any case. Staff Reporter from Karachi adds: PPP leader Pir Mazarul Haq yesterday said the accusations against him were based on a baseless news report. He was responding to NAB decision to investigate the case of 1,300 bogus appointments of teachers. In a statement, Mazhar said that four references were filed against him in the Nawaz government in the past and he proved innocent. “I am being politically targeted for being a part of the PPP,” he said, adding that the minister only devises a strategy for a project and it was the bureaucracy that implements it on the ground.

“Some officials unlawfully exercised their powers in my tenure in recruitments in the education department and I wrote to chief minister Sindh for action against them,” he said, adding that those officers were not only suspended but also final notices for their expulsion were also issued. Pir Mazhar said that he could never think of selling a job as being a PPP member he believes in providing jobs to the people on merit. “I have not fled the country and will face the cases,” he said.