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ISLAMABAD: The Accountability Court, on Thursday, turned down the National Accountability Bureau (NAB)’s request for issuing non-bailable arrest warrants of former prime minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani and other accused for their absence in the proceedings of Toshakhana case, after the counsels of the absent accused appeared before the court.

The NAB had filed the Toshakhana reference against former president Asif Ali Zardari, two former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Gilani, and others for allegedly acquiring of three vehicles including BMW 750 Li model 2004, Toyota Lexus Jeep 472 model 2007 gifted by the embassy of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and BMW 760 LI model 2008 gifted by Embassy of Libya and gifts from Toshakhana — an official treasury where gifts from foreign dignitaries or heads of state are deposited - in violation of rules and regulations.

At the start of the hearing, Zardari’s lead counsel associate and others filed separate applications before the Accountability Court-III judge Syed Asghar Ali seeking exemption of their clients from personal appearance before it, which the court approved.

NAB Deputy Prosecutor General, Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi, informed the court that neither counsel of Gilani nor him were present in the court.

He also told the court that Zardari’s lawyer also did not appear before the court and only filed his exemption application filed before it.

“If they- the accused- do not want to appear before the court then at least ensure presence of their lawyer or pleader in the court,” Abbasi told the court.

He requested the court to issue non-bailable arrest warrants of all the absent accused.

At this, the judge said that wait for a while; if their (accused’s) counsel or accused did not appear then arrest warrant will be issued against them.

The associate of the defence counsel told the court that their senior were busy in the Lahore High Court (LHC) Rawalpindi bench and will appear before it after an hour.

The court took a short break.

After the break, Gilani’s counsel Javed appeared before the court.

He told the court that the coronavirus cases were increasing in the country with each passing day, and “we are standing in the courtroom, which is full to capacity due to the presence of lawyers, accused, and others.” “I do not know, why the NAB is making such a hurry,” he said.

He further said the NAB knew an incident in which a coronavirus positive witness appeared before the Accountability Court-II in that court. The NAB had put at risk lives of 200 people in danger and was also openly violating the recommendations of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC),” he said.

At this, the judge told Gilani’s counsel the court had marked his attendance and if he felt any danger he could stand outside the courtroom.

“If I reduce my staff then it would be difficult to hear cases,” the judge said, adding “we have yet not received any recommendations regarding the third wave of the Covid-19.”

He asked the prosecution witness, Ishtiaq Ahmed former principal appraiser, AFU Model Customs Collectorate, to start recording of his statement.

The defence counsel raised objections over some of the documents produced by the accused related to the three gifted vehicles.

The court completed recording statement of the witnesses and summoned another two witnesses including Akhtar Sohail and Muhammad Dilwar Sardar for recording of their statements during the next hearing to be held on April 8.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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