KARACHI  -   A banking court in Karachi Friday granted interim bail to former President Asif Ali Zardari in a case pertaining to illegal transaction of Rs 35 billion through fake accounts.

Pakistan People’s Party Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari appeared before the banking court along with his counsel Farooq H Naek, seeking interim bail in the high-profile money-laundering case. The court accepted his bail plea against a surety bond of Rs 2 million with the direction to appear on September 4, the next date of hearing.

The former president reached the court amid a tight security. Media persons asked him several questions, but he avoided to face them. He, however, responded to a few questions while speaking informally.

Answering a question regarding the coming presidential election, the PPP co-chairman expressed the hope for the victory of his party’s nominee and said Aitzaz Ahsan would be the next president of Pakistan.

He again denied allegations regarding money laundering and said all the cases against politicians were politically motivated. “We respect the judiciary and I will appear before the court on daily basis if summoned,” said Zardari.

Zardari also said he might come in a helicopter for his next court appearance, apparently referring to the helicopter controversy surrounding Prime Minister Imran Khan’s helicopter trips.

Earlier, the banking court had issued arrest warrants for Zardari and 15 others in money laundering and fake bank accounts. Later, the former President approached the Islamabad High Court to get protective bail and was granted bail till September 3.

According to the FIA prosecution, 32 suspects, including Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur, are under investigation pertaining to money laundering from suspicious bank accounts.

Former Pakistan Stock Exchange chairman Hussain Lawai and Talha Raza are already into the judicial custody on the same charges. Hussain Lawai is a close aide of Zardari.

The FIA prosecutor had stated that over 20 ‘benami’ accounts at some private banks were opened during 2013 and 2015 and illegal transactions worth billions of rupees were made through these accounts, adding the amount was allegedly collected through kickbacks, commissions and bribes.

The case was registered with the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) under sections 419 (cheating by impersonation), 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property), 468 (forgery for cheating), 471 (using as genuine a forged document), 109 (abetment) of Pakistan Penal Code, Section 5(2) of Prevention of Corruption Act and sections 3 and 4 of Anti-Money Laundering Act.

The FIA had declared the former president, Faryal Talpur, Anwar Majeed, Abdul Ghani Majeed, Aslam Masood, Muhammad Arif Khan, Adeel Shah Rashidi, Nasser Abdullah Hussain, Muhammad Ashraf, Adnan Jawed, Muhammad Umair, Iqbal Arain, Qasim Ali, Shahzad Ali, Azam Wazir Khan, Sher Muhammad Mugheri, Zain Malik, Muhammad Iqbal Khan Noori, Nimr Majid and Mustafa Zulqernain absconders.