Accountability Judge Mohammad Arshad Malik, during a fake accounts case hearing on Thursday, wondered whether the headquarters of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) should be shifted to a hospital to facilitate its corruption suspects who tend to frequently fall ill.
The remarks came during a lighthearted exchange with former president Asif Ali Zardari, who appeared before the accountability court in Islamabad.
While taking up an application filed by another suspect in the case, Omni Group CEO Abdul Ghani Majeed, seeking medical facilities while in NAB custody, Judge Malik wondered: "Shouldn't [we] just transfer the NAB headquarters to some hospital?"
"If somebody sits in a room for two days after locking the door from the inside, they don't feel unwell," he observed. "But they become restless when they find out somebody has locked the door from the outside."
He said the analogy suitably applied to the fake accounts case, in which he said suspects fall ill after being arrested.
Zardari, who was at the rostrum, was quick to respond.
"We are not that weak, sahib," the PPP co-chairman said, adding that he was doing just fine. He further said he was not afraid of prisons because he had spent "13 years in solitary confinement".
"Not everyone is like you," the judge replied in a light vein. "Some people pick a fight with the lion and some get frightened by a small animal."
At this, Zardari couldn't help himself from making a jibe at his political rival, Prime Minister Imran Khan, saying: "[By that measure] our prime minister is even scared of a lizard."
The judge replied: "no comments".
Earlier at the start of the hearing, Zardari objected to three suspects in the case being brought to the court in handcuffs.
"These are educated boys, why have they been handcuffed?", he asked, adding that the case revolves around a "white-collar crime".
At this, the judge inquired whether the suspects had been handcuffed by NAB officials. He was informed by the accountability watchdog's representative that the suspects were brought to the court from jail by police and that NAB had not put them in handcuffs.
The hearing of the case was adjourned until July 8.