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Last Updated: Friday, 14 March 2008, 15:04 GMT
Last case against Zardari dropped
By Barbara Plett
BBC News, Islamabad

Asif Ali Zardari
Mr Zardari spent several years in jail on corruption charges
A Pakistani court has quashed the last of seven corruption cases against Asif Zardari, the widower of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

They were withdrawn as part of an amnesty agreed last year between Ms Bhutto and President Pervez Musharraf.

This has removed a potential obstacle to Mr Zardari's chances of holding public office.

He leads the Pakistan People's Party and is set to form a coalition government after general elections.

Mr Zardari did not stand in last month's elections and would have to win a parliamentary seat in a by-election if he decides to become prime minister.

Initially he said he was not interested in doing so, but party insiders say he is now considering it.

'Politically motivated'

The corruption charges in Pakistan have hung over Mr Zardari for more than a decade. He could still face cases outside the country.

He developed a reputation for allegedly taking kickbacks when he served in Ms Bhutto's governments in the 1990s. Pakistanis nicknamed him Mr Ten Per Cent and he spent 11 years in prison on corruption and other charges but was not convicted.

He and Ms Bhutto always maintained the cases were politically motivated.

Ultimately though, she did a deal to win immunity from prosecution, giving support to President Musharraf in exchange for an amnesty.

There had been indications that the country's chief justice would declare this deal unconstitutional before the president sacked him in November when he introduced emergency rule.

Political sources have told the BBC this was a major reason why Mr Zardari was initially reluctant to endorse the restoration of the judges.

They say he finally did so after reassurances from his coalition partners that the issue would be dropped.

As head of Ms Bhutto's Pakistan's People's Party, he has formed an alliance with the Pakistan Muslim League (N) of Nawaz Sharif, which insists on the reinstatement of the judges.

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