ISLAMABAD: An accountability court has selected September 9 framing charges against former president Asif Ali Zardari in the Toshakhana reference.
Former president Asif Ali Zardari appeared before the accountability court today (Monday) to attend a hearing in the reference.
The PPP leader arrived in Islamabad from Karachi on Sunday evening with his son and party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. Due to the COVID-19 situation, the party leadership had advised workers not to attend his hearing.
As soon as the former president arrived in the courtroom, Bilawal called upon all party workers to leave the premises. He urged even the attorneys’ assistants to leave the courtroom due to the prevalent COVID-19 pandemic.
Zardari’s lawyer Farooq H Naek complained to the court that he was not allowed inside the courtroom despite being a senior lawyer. “This is neither a military court not an in-camera trial,” he said. “I am a senior lawyer of the Supreme Court and police pushed me away with their shields,” he added.
Naek pointed out that former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani contracted COVID-19 after appearing before the court. He wondered who will be held responsible if the same happened to Zardari.
The PPP alleged that all roads leading to NAB were blocked with barbed wires and riot police. Senator Sherry Rehman took to Twitter to thank to say that lawyers were not even allowed inside the court for hours.
The NAB reference filed against Zardari and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif accuses them of obtaining the cars from Toshakhana (gift depository) by paying 15% of the price of the cars.
Zardari also received cars as gifts from Libya and the UAE when he was president and used them for his personal use instead of depositing them in the treasury, the anti-graft body had alleged
Former premier Yousuf Raza Gillani has been accused of facilitating Zardari and Nawaz in this matter. The anti-graft body has accused Gillani of relaxing the procedure for acceptance and disposal of gifts.
Khawaja Anwar Majeed and Khawaja Abdul Ghani Majeed, owners of the Omni Group, are also nominated as accused in the reference.
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.
Toshakhana reference: Nawaz Sharif challenges arrest warrant in IHC
Nawaz had requested the IHC through his counsel Jahangir Jadoon to nullify the accountability court’s earlier decision to issue an advertisement for his arrest.
Nawaz in his petition also requested the IHC to nullify the accountability court’s decision to issue the warrants. The petition added that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is targeting the opposition to suppress its voice.
“Nawaz Sharif is not a fugitive but is abroad undergoing treatment and should be allowed to face trial through his representative,” the petition had stated.
The counsel for the three-time former prime minister also noted that the European Union and Human Rights Watch have also expressed concerns over NAB’s actions.