ISLAMABAD: An accountability court issued bailable warrants for former president Asif Ali Zardari and started the process to have Nawaz Sharif declared an absconder in the Toshakhana reference filed by the National Accountability Bureau, reported Geo News on Tuesday.
The court rejected the petition filed by the former president seeking that he be excused from appearing in person to attend the hearing.
The court, during today’s proceedings, remarked that it was a criminal case and the former president will have to appear before it.
To this, Farooq H Naek, counsel for the PPP co-chairman, told the court his client is very old and hence was at danger from the coronavirus pandemic.
“Asif Zardari does not have coronavirus,” replied the court to the lawyer’s concerns.
However, Naek further explained to the court that if the former president showed up people will gather, and assured the court that he was present on behalf of the PPP leader.
Upon hearing this, NAB Prosecutor General Sardar Muzafar Abbasi intervened and told the court that it was the administration’s responsibility to control the people if they assembled in large numbers.
“No concession should be given,a non-bailable arrest warrant should be issued against them,” Abbasi urged the court. He added that the court allowed former Yousuf Raza Gilani exemption from appearing before the court and taking advantage of that, his lawyer skipped today’s hearing.
Abbasi asked the court to end the relief granted to Gilani, another accused in the case.
“Asif Ali Zardari was given bail on medical grounds by the high court,” Naek reminded the judge. He added that it was not the first time that cases were filed against his client.
“I am seeing cases filed against Asif Zardari for the last 20 years,” Naek told the court. He added that the warrants should be issued when the PPP leader does not appear before the court.
“Asif Ali Zardari will appear in the upcoming hearing,” Naek assured the court. While talking about his PPP colleague Gilani, Naek said fromer prime minister had contracted coronavirus, adding that he’s ready to submit an affidavit for him if the court allows.
Judge Asghar Ali, after hearing the arguments, told Naek that he will give an extended date so Zardari could appear before the court. He added that the court will also issue warrants for his client
Nawaz Sharif declared fugitive
During today’s hearing, the NAB also submitted the summons it intends to submit to the authorities in the United Kingdom for the arrest of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
“There are three accused in the case, the court has issued warrants for Nawaz Sharif. Nawaz Sharif is in Britain, warrants should be issued through the Foreign Office,” the NAB prosecutor urged the court.
Judge Asghar Ali, while commenting on Nawaz Sharif, expressed his disappointment over a lack of action against the non-bailable warrant issued for the former prime minister.
“Nawaz Sharif is deliberately not becoming part of the court proceedings,” remarked the accountability court. Later, the court declared the former prime minister a fugitive in the case and issued an advertisement in the regard.
In the last hearing, the accountability court had issued a non-bailable arrest warrant for PML-N supremo and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in the Toshakhana reference.
Nawaz, former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and former president Asif Ali Zardari were summoned to attend a hearing related to the Toshakhana reference in that hearing.
However, the last hearing was only attended by Gilani and suspect Abdul Majid Ghani, while the others did not appear. The court in that hearing had also accepted Zardari's application exempting him from appearing before the court.
The anti-corruption watchdog in its reference has alleged that Zardari and Nawaz received cars from former prime minister Gilani illegally.
Zardari had paid only 15% of the total cost of the cars through fake accounts, according to NAB. He also received the cars as a gift from Libya and the UAE when he was president and used them for his personal use instead of depositing them in the treasury, alleged NAB.
The anti-graft body further alleges that Abdul Ghani Majeed, another accused in thcase, paid for the vehicles through fake accounts whereas Anwar Majeed made more than Rs20 million through illegal transactions using the Ansari Sugar Mills accounts.
According to reports, Nawaz was not holding any public office in 2008 but was given a vehicle without any justification. NAB says the leaders have been charged with corruption under sub-sections 2, 4, 7 and 12 of Section 9 (A) of the NAB Ordinance.
The Toshakhana (gift depository) gift from any country to the head of the state remains the property of the government unless sold at an open auction. Rules allow officials to retain gifts with a market value of less than Rs10,000 without paying anything.