An anti-corruption court in Pakistan on Monday indicted former president Asif Ali Zardari through video link in a graft case where he was accused of influencing authorities to release loans to front companies.
As Zardari could not appear in the court due to "illness", the indictment was carried out through video link, which was the first such indictment in the judicial history of the country.
The 63-year-old husband of the country's first woman prime minister Benazir Bhutto appeared before the court through video link from Bilawal House in Karachi.
Judge Muhammad Azam Khan of the accountability court in Islamabad indicted him and nine other accused in the Park Lane case. During the hearing, Zardari maintained that his lawyers are at the Supreme Court and he cannot be indicted in the absence of his lawyers.
However, the court dismissed this and remarked that Zardari would be indicted regardless, and his lawyers would simply be marked absent if they did not appear before the court. The indictment has paved the way for the proper trial to begin.
Other prominent accused in the case include the Omni Group chief Anwar Majeed, Sher Ali, Farooq Abdullah, Saleem Faisal and Muhammad Hanif.All of the accused, including the former president and Anwar Majeed, maintained innocence and pleaded not guilty before the court.
According to the indictment, Zardari influenced the relevant authorities during his tenure as president to release loans to front companies. He was accused of being a director of the Park Lane company and planning to commit fraud.
The former president allegedly got his front company, Parthenon Private Limited, a loan of Rs 1.5 billion with ill intention, and the money was then transferred for his personal use through fake accounts.
The National Accountability Bureau accused the former president of causing the national exchequer a loss of Rs 3.77 billion in the case. In the 13-page NAB case against Zardari and other accused, the anti-graft watchdog alleges that the accused created properties in fake names through Park Lane Company using Parthenon Private Limited as the front company.
Zardari has said the allegation was part of a vilification campaign by Imran Khan-led ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party to malign the Opposition leaders.