For all their protestations against the verdict announced by a Rawalpindi anti-terrorism court (ATC), the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) did not seem to take the slightest interest in the Benazir Bhutto murder trial, and no one from the party turned up to hear the judgment on Thursday.
Benazir Bhutto, who was twice elected prime minister of Pakistan, was assassinated when terrorists attacked her convoy, as it was leaving the historic Liaquat Bagh after addressing a public meeting on Dec 27, 2007.
After coming to power in the centre following the 2008 general elections, the PPP had ordered the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to re-investigate the murder case, and requested the United Nations to carry out a probe into the tragic incident.
In August 2013, then-PPP secretary general Sardar Latif Khosa filed an application before the ATC to become party to the murder case, arguing that the party had a right to be a party to the case involving their martyred leader.
The party’s legal team included Barrister Khurram Latif Khosa, Amir Fida Paracha, Barrister Mehmood Chaudhry and Husnain Rind.
The court had turned down the plea, saying that a political party could not become party to a murder case. But in order to remain associated with the trial, Mr Khosa filed another application on behalf of the heirs of PPP activist Tanvir Kaira, who was also killed in the Dec 27, 2007 attack.
Mr Khosa attended few ATC hearings, and when proceeding slowed down, he discontinued pursuing the case altogether. A couple of weeks ago, the ATC had decided to conclude the case and started day-to-day proceedings, but neither Mr Khosa nor any of his associates appeared before the court.
When contacted, PPP Rawalpindi Chapter President Amir Fida Paracha said that since the ATC had rejected the party’s request to join proceedings, they preferred not to attend.
“Why should we appear in a case where we were not a party,” he asked.
In contrast, the PPP leadership took an active interest in a number of other cases it was not party to either, some of which were being heard alongside the Benazir murder case.
For example, PPP leaders took a keen interest in Panamagate proceedings before the Supreme Court, and attended the final hearings of the case against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif quite regularly. PPP was neither a party to the matter, nor a respondent.
Similarly, Mr Khosa appeared as the defence counsel for supermodel Ayyan Ali several times before a special customs and excise court, which is only a few steps from the ATC that was hearing the Benazir murder case.
Another senior PPP lawyer, former law minister Farooq H. Naek and his associates also appeared before a Rawalpindi accountability court that recently acquitted former president Asif Ali Zardari in the final corruption reference against him.
Even junior PPP lawyers did not attend the final hearings of the Benazir murder case, and there were only around half a dozen lawyers on hand when the ATC made the announcement.
However, they too left court premises upon being told that the decision would be announced at Adiala Jail.
Not a single political worker or lawyer from the PPP’s Lawyers Forum was present outside Adiala Jail when the ATC judge’s reader read out the operative paragraph of the verdict.
Mr Paracha told Dawn that since Mr Khosa was pursuing the case, he would discuss the matter with him. However, Mr Khosa could not be reached for comment, despite repeated attempts.