ISLAMABAD - The Accountability Court (AC) No 1 has granted former President Asif Ali Zardari permanent exemption from appearing before it in all National Accountability Bureau (NAB) references pending against him.

Counsel for Zardari, Farooq H Naek, argued his client was facing security threats, so he should be granted exemption from appearing in the court. The court exempted Zardari from appearance in NAB references and adjourned the hearing of the case till February 3.

Earlier, the accountability court had reserved its decision over former president Asif Ali Zardari’s plea for exemption from appearance. Another application seeking acquittal of Zardari in all the NAB references was also filed in the court. Farooq said none of the references had evidences against the ex-president, so he should be acquitted. During the last hearing, Asif Ali Zardari appeared before the accountability court amid a tight security. Farooq H Naek took the plea that all the accused in the polo ground case had been acquitted, praying to the court to acquit his client in all the cases against him.

Asif Ali Zardari was summoned in the court in at least five corruption references filed by NAB. The references against Zardari are polo ground, SGS, Cotecna, ARY and Ursus tractors.

Defence Counsel Farooq H Naek filed a petition seeking acquittal of the former president in all the five references. He argued no solid evidence was available on the record against his client nor any witness was there against him in these references. He said Zardari had been facing the cases for the last 17 years while all the co-accused in these references had been exonerated. No witness had given any statement against his client despite lapse of such a longer period, he contended.

Naek requested the court to grant permanent exemption to his client from appearance in the court due to security threats. “The hearing of the references can also be affected because of gathering and rush of people at the time of Zardari’s appearance in the court,” he pleaded. Zardari would appear in the court whenever he was summoned, he added. The NAB prosecutor, while opposing the plea for exemption, argued the hearing of the case would be affected if the former president did not appear.

After completion of arguments from both the parties, the court will decide if the former president can be indicted or otherwise in these references.