ISLAMABAD: An accountability court on Tuesday issued a bailable arrest warrant for former president Asif Ali Zardari in the Toshakhana reference case.
Zardari is one of the main suspects along with former prime ministers Yousaf Raza Gilani and Nawaz Sharif. The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had moved the court seeking an arrest warrant for the former president and declaring Nawaz Sharif a proclaimed offender.
During today’s proceedings, Zardari’s counsel Farooq H Naek told the court that he had already filed a plea to exempt his client from appearing before the court. He assured the court that Zardari will be presented at the next hearing.
Naek said that summoning Zardari to court will cause a commotion which will be dangerous due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the court rejected the former president’s plea and issued a bailable arrest warrant. The court ordered that Zardari should appear before the court.
NAB Deputy Prosecutor General Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi said it was the administration’s job to control the crowds if there was a rush due to Zardari’s presence in court. He said that Zardari should not be given any relief and non-bailable arrest warrants for him should be issued.
He said Gilani’s lawyer has also abstained from coming before the court after the former prime minister was granted an exemption from personal appearance. Naek said arrest warrant should be issued if Zardari does not appear before the court, while Gilani had contracted the coronavirus and is currently in self-isolation.
The accountability court initiated the process to have Nawaz Sharif, who is also one of the accused in the case, declared an absconder. The bench issued an order to summon Nawaz via an advertisement after his non-bailable arrest warrants were issued on 11th June.
According to NAB, Zardari and Nawaz Sharif obtained cars from the Toshakana (gift depository) by paying 15% of the cars’ price through fake accounts while Gilani allegedly facilitated them.
Zardari 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. Nawaz was not holding any public office in 2008 but was given a vehicle without any justification.
The Toshakhana gift to the head of the state remains the property of the government unless sold at an open auction. Officials can retain gifts with a market value of less than Rs10,000 without paying anything.