Pakistan charges Bhutto's spouse with kidnapping

October 11, 1990|By New York Times News Service

PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- Asif Ali Zardari, the husband of ousted Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, was arrested yesterday in Karachi on charges of kidnapping a British businessman in April and extorting $800,000 from him.

Mr. Zardari was denied bail by the Sind High Court, according to news agency reports.

Mr. Zardari, a polo-playing businessman from a relatively obscure family in Sind province, where the Bhuttos are a powerful landowning clan, has emerged over the past year as Ms. Bhutto's gravest political liability. Many Pakistanis say they believe that Mr. Zardari and his father, Hakim Ali Zardari, now in exile in London, have made a large amount of money through the improper use of political influence.

The arrest of the younger Mr. Zardari -- whom Ms. Bhutto married in a huge, highly publicized wedding in December 1987, renouncing her Westernized social upbringing to agree to an arranged match -- could deal a blow to her election campaign.

Ms. Bhutto's government was dismissed Aug. 6 by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan on charges of malfeasance and mismanagement.

While many Pakistanis say that they believe there was extensive corruption in Ms. Bhutto's government, they also say that she had been regaining sympathy recently as the caretaker government of Prime Minister Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi failed to produce evidence against her.

The most widely reported of the cases against her is to be heard next week in Lahore. This involves her alleged improper awarding of land to a company in which a cousin had an interest.

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