An accountability court in Islamabad on Tuesday issued a bailable arrest warrant for former president Asif Ali Zardari in the Toshakhana reference. The Pakistan People’s Party supremo is one of the main suspects in the case along with former prime ministers Yousaf Raza Gilani and Nawaz Sharif. During the proceedings, Zardari’s counsel Farooq H Naek told the court that he had already filed a plea in court to exempt his client from appearing. “I am a senior lawyer and I am telling the court that Asif Zardari will be present at the next hearing,” he argued, adding that summoning Zardari to court will cause a lot of people to gather, which will be dangerous amid Covid-19 pandemic.NAB Deputy Prosecutor General Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi countered Naek’s stance by saying that if a rush were to develop due to Zardari’s presence in court, then it was the administration’s job to control it. “Zardari should not be given any relief, non-bailable arrest warrants for him should be issued,” the prosecutor urged the court. Naek, however, handled Abbasi by saying that the arrest warrant should be issued if Zardari does not appear before the court. The court, however, rejected the former president’s plea and issued a bailable arrest warrant for him. “I’ll give a long date; Asif Zardari should appear before the court,” remarked the judge. Naek, while addressing the absence of Gilani, said the former prime minister had contracted Covid-19 and had gone into isolation. “Even I had isolated myself because I had come into contact with Gilani,” Naek said, and offered to give a statement under oath on Gilani’s behalf.Separately, the court started the process to have Nawaz Sharif, who is also one of the accused in the case, declared an absconder. The bench issued an order to summon the former prime minister via an advertisement. “No implementation was done on Nawaz Sharif’s non-bailable arrest warrants,” remarked the judge. “Nawaz Sharif is intentionally not taking part in judicial activities,” he remarked. Accountability judge Asghar Ali adjourned the hearing until August 17.Separately, an accountability court in Islamabad on Tuesday acquitted former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and seven others in the Pira Ghaib rental power project reference. Apart from the former prime minister, the acquittal pleas of Ismail Qureshi, Shahid Rafi, Shaukat Tareen, Tahir Basharat Cheema, Saleem Arif, Abdul Qadeer and Iqbal Shah were also accepted by judge Muhammad Bashir.NAB had filed the Pira Ghaib rental power project reference in 2014, accusing Ashraf of misusing his powers and corruption while he was serving as the water and power minister. A reference against the PPP leader was filed in December 2019 after Rana Amjad, the manager of the Sahiwal-Multan project, turned approver in the case.This is the second time this month that the PPP leader has been acquitted in a rental power project reference filed against him after NAB failed to prove corruption charges against him. The accountability watchdog has, however, decided to challenge acquittal of former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and other accused in the case. The watchdog has requested to annul release order of Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and other accused as evidence against them is available. It is to be mentioned here that Reshma Power Generation Private Limited, Gulf Rental Power Private Limited and Young Gen Power Limited faced allegations of receiving more than Rs 22 billion mobilisation in advance from the government to commission the projects but failed to set up the plants.