During the court's hearing, Zardari's attorney and former Law Minister Farooq H Naek told the court that his client faced security threats due to which he could not appear before the court.

The three references were filed by the National Accountability Bureau against Zardari were revived after his presidential immunity ended.

"The former president would appear in the court for the next hearing after getting a security clearance," Naek said.

Judge Muhammad Bashir of Islamabad's accountability court accepted Zardari's non-appearance application for Monday's hearing of the trial and asked him to appear before it on December 23.

Naek said Zardari had been indicted in all the other cases apart from the polo ground reference case in which he had not been charged.

NAB officials gave copies of the Cotecna reference to Naek. The court summoned the witnesses in Societe Generale Surveillance (SGS), Cotecna, Ursus tractor and assets cases.

In October, after appointment of a new chief of NAB, it reopened five cases on allegations of corruption against Zardari. NAB has vowed to "vigorously" pursue the cases.

Zardari, 58, stepped down from the post of president in September after a record five years in power.

The cases against Zardari contain charges of kickbacks and commission from SGS PSI Company for pre-shipment inspection, grant of a licence to ARY Gold causing losses to national exchequer, receipt of illegal gratification and commission in purchase of URSUS tractors under the Awami Tractor Scheme.

Other cases include illegal award of a contract to Cotecna for pre-shipment, possession of assets beyond means and receipt of kickbacks from Sajjad Ahmad, a former chairman of Pakistan Steel Mills.

(Agencies)

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