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ISLAMABAD: An Accountability Court hearing multi-billion rupees fake bank accounts case on Tuesday issued bailable arrest warrants for former president Asif Ali Zardari and started process for declaring former prime minister Nawaz Sharif as proclaimed offender for not appearing before it in the Toshakhana reference.

The NAB had filed the Toshakhana reference against former president Asif Ali Zardari, and the former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Yousaf Raza Gilani, and others for allegedly acquiring vehicles and gifts from Toshakhana in violation of rules and regulations.

At the start of the hearing, Accountability Court Judge Muhammad Asghar Ali when inquired about accused Asif Zardari, his counsel Farooq H Naek told the court that he had submitted an application before the court to exempt his client from appearing before it for today.

At this, the judge said that it was a criminal case, and Zardari would have to appear before the court.

Naek told the court that his client was an aged person, and older people were more vulnerable to the deadly coronavirus, which had spread everywhere.

A lot of people will gather in the court due to attendance of his client, which is very dangerous in the current coronavirus situation.

"I am a senior lawyer and I am telling the court that Zardari will appear before it during the next hearing," Naek said.

The NAB Deputy Prosecutor General, Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi, while objecting to Zardari's exemption plea and the stance adopted by his client, said that if a huge number of people gathered in the court due to appearance of Zardari, then it was the job of the administration to control the situation.

Abbasi said that the accused Zardari should not be given any relief, and he requested the court to issue non-bailable arrest warrants for him.

He said that after the court granted exemption from appearing before it to former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, his lawyer did not appear before the court today.

Abbasi also requested the court to withdraw Gilani's exemption from appearing before the court.

Naek told the court that the Islamabad High Court (IHC) had granted bail to Zardari on medical grounds.

The arrest warrant should be issued against Zardari, if he does not appear before the court, he further said.

Responding to the NAB prosecutor's statement about Gilani, he said the former prime minister had tested positive for Covid-19.

"I was also with Gilani. I had also gone in self-isolation," he added.

If the court orders, I will give the affidavit on behalf of Gilani in the court, he said.

The judge said that he will give a long date, Asif Zardari should appear before the court and rejected his plea and issued a bailable arrest warrant for him.

The NAB also submitted report regarding sending of summon to Sharif to UK.

Sharif is presently in the UK and the NAB had sent him arrest warrant through the Foreign Office, he said.

The court started the process to declare Sharif as an absconder.

The bench issued an order to summon Sharif via an advertisement.

The court observed that no implementation was done on Sharif's non-bailable arrest warrants, and he is intentionally not appearing before it.

The court adjourned hearing of the case till August 17.

According to the bureau, the evidence collected during the course of inquiry and investigation has established that the accused, Gilani in order to extend illegal benefit to the accused, Zardari and Sharif, illegally allowed the retention of vehicles gifted to them by various foreign states and dignitaries, which at that time belonged to the Central Pool of Cars, Cabinet Division, relaxing the procedure of Toshakhana illegally.

According to the NAB, accused, Zardari and Sharif, had retained the said vehicles against the nominal payment of 15 percent of total value of the vehicles.

The accused, Zardari, made the payment for vehicles and duties of these vehicles through accused Khawaja Anwer Majid and Khawaja Abdul Ghani Majid, from "fake" bank accounts.

The accused, Gilani, former prime minister and minister-in-charge Cabinet Division from 2008-2012 had "illegally" relaxed the procedure for the acceptance and disposal of gifts, issued by the government through the Cabinet Division OM no.9/8/2004 TK dated June 25, 2007. According to these rules, "gifted vehicles shall not be allowed to be purchased by the recipients and be given to the Central Pool of Cars of the Cabinet Division."