ISLAMABAD: The original record in the assets reference against former president and PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, which has been dragging on for around 15 years now, has gone missing from the custody of an accountability court.
This is not the first time that the original records of a case against Mr Zardari have gone missing. The original case record in two other references — where he was eventually acquitted — had also gone missing.
On Wednesday, the National Accountability Bureau submitted an affidavit before the Rawalpindi Accountability Court, saying that the bureau had provided the original case record to the court some 15 years ago, which had not been returned to NAB to date.
The court could not record the statements of witnesses due to the non-availability of the case record and adjourned the hearing until Thursday (today) and Accountability Court judge Khalid Mehmood Ranjha summoned a complete record of the case for the next hearing.
A NAB official told Dawn that the bureau’s legal team had shown the court its own letter, which it had received when the original record was submitted to the court. There is no documentary evidence that the record was ever returned to NAB, he said.
“In fact, the original case record is submitted to the court when a reference is filed and it remains in the court’s custody until the case is decided,” the official said.
At the last hearing, the judge had directed NAB to present the original record, but the bureau told the court that the record had gone missing from the court’s custody.
NAB officials claimed the bureau had filed the reference before an accountability court in Jan 2001, when the original documents related to the case were provided to the court.
A source said that more than 300 pages were missing from original case file, after which the court initiated its own investigation to find the missing record.
This has happened to Mr Zardari twice in the past, when the original record in the SGS-Cotecna and ARY references was also found to be missing; something that became part of the reason for his acquittal in both references.
Talking to reporters outside the courtroom, Mr Zardari’s lawyer Farooq H. Naek said that no record had gone missing in the assets reference against Mr Zardari. “It is an old record and the court staff is trying to locate it,” he said. Five more witnesses had to record their statements in the case, after which the court would deliver its verdict.