ISLAMABAD              -         An Accountability Court (AC) on Tuesday issued bailable arrest warrant against former President Asif Ali Zardari in Toshakhana reference.

The court also ordered to initiate the process to declare former Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif as Proclaimed Offender in the same case due to his continuous disappearance from the hearing.

AC Judge Asghar Ali Khan conducted hearing on the reference against Asif Zardari, Nawaz Sharif and ex-Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.

During the course of proceeding, Zardari’s lawyer Farouk H Naek adopted the stance that his client was aged and unable to appear in person due to the risk of COVID-19.

He prayed the court to grant one-day exemption from the hearing to the ex-President.

The court rejected the exemption request of Zardari and said the accused would have to appear before the trial court as it was a criminal case.

To this, the lawyer said arrest warrant of the ex-President would be appropriate in case he (Zardari) had no representation in the court.

He said he had appeared on behalf of his client and assured the court that Zardari would appear in a later hearing. Naek further said that if Asif Zardari appeared in person before the court then his supporters would also gather which could increase the risk of coronavirus spread.

National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Prosecutor Sardar Muzaffar said it was the administration’s job to control a crowd.  He prayed to the court to issue non-bailable arrest warrant against Asif Zardari.

He further said that Gilani had been exempted from the court appearances but none had appeared on his behalf this day. He also prayed to the court to withdraw Gilani’s exemption.

Naek informed the court that former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had got infected with COVID-19 and gone into isolation.  The court adjourned the hearing until August 17.