RAWALPINDI, Dec 26: A hazy day in Rawalpindi, there was little to indicate that within hours, it would be five years since Benazir Bhutto, PPP’s chairman and the first woman prime minister of Pakistan, was assassinated on this very road.
Only a handful of PPP activists could be spotted on Liaquat Road where she had lost her life. They were busy putting up banners and billboards, ignored by the visitors to the park, who walked past. The lack of energy and exuberance was all the more marked when compared to the buzz of activity on Murree road, nearby. At Murree Road, a horde of construction workers were feverishly working on a flyover being built at the behest of the Punjab government.
The members of the People’s Youth Organisation (PYO), supervised by Central Executive Committee (CEC) member Qazi Sultan Ahmad, appeared lacklustre in contrast.
They appeared lost and orphaned. And their words simply strengthened this perception.
Mohammad Shakil said as he unrolled a banner, “Every year, we hope that on this day we will not have to hear the mocking tone of our
political adversaries who make fun of the PPP because it has not been able to arrest the murderers of BB, despite being in power.”
But this wish, which is shared by most PPP workers and activists, remains unfulfilled. In fact, the anger of the people is intensifying at what is being perceived as the apathy of the party leadership that does little but spouts meaningless words.
Since December 30, 2007, when Benazir Bhutto’s widower and current President Asif Ali Zardari first spoke about her death, the PPP leadership has done everything to further confound the mystery surrounding the murder of the former prime minister in a gun and bomb attack on Dec 27, 2007.
Mr Zardari during the press conference on that sombre day repeatedly referred to his late wife’s email which she wrote to Mark Siegel. The email was an indictment of then president, Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf, as she stated that he wasn’t serious about her security. Mr Zardari termed the email as her ‘dying declaration’ nominating her potential killers.
In the same breath Mr Zardari dubbed PML-Q as Qatil league. By doing so he was only following in the footsteps of his wife who had accused Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi along with former ISI chief Lt-Gen Hameed Gul and then IB chief Ejaz Shah of being guilty of planning her death.
How sincere he was is evident from the fact that now the PML-Q is coalition partner and Elahi the deputy prime minister of the PPP-led government.
But he is not the only one who has used Ms Bhutto’s death to score political points. His hyperactive, Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, is also well known for his wild pronouncements, on the dramatic discoveries in the investigations of the BB murder case.
Addressing a gathering of Pakistan People’s Party workers in Chitral earlier this month, he announced that he would reveal the names of the murderers of Benazir Bhutto and other little-known details of her assassination in his upcoming book.
No-one knows what additional information the interior minister had gathered which he wanted to disclose through his book.
If that was not enough he told Dawn in mid December that he would “expose some new faces involved in the assassination of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto when we unveil the JIT report on her death anniversary.”
But earlier this year, in a special briefing to the Sindh Assembly on February 21, he had squarely blamed former president Gen Musharraf for the murder of Ms Bhutto.
“Both Pervez Musharraf and militants based in Fata considered Benazir Bhutto a threat for themselves as she was a strong proponent of democracy and democratic values,” Mr Malik was quoted as saying in media reports.
In his enthusiasm, Mr Malik has also taken a different line than his boss as to why Ms Bhutto’s post-mortem was not carried out after her death. He told the provincial assembly that the post-mortem wasn’t carried out on the instructions of police officer on duty. Mr Zardari during the press conference on Dec 30, 2007, had said: “I have lived long enough in Pakistan to know how these post-mortems are done. I know these forensics reports are useless. We know what the wound is and how it was caused”, explaining why he had rejected the government’s suggestion for a post-mortem.
Other PPP leaders have also issued similar self-contradictory statements.
Qamar Zaman Kaira, federal Minister for Information and chief spokesperson for the party, on Jan 3, 2011, during a rally in his hometown of Gujrat said the investigation into Benazir Bhutto’s assassination had entered its final phase. He added that it was a matter of days before the people involved in the crime would be exposed.
But Mr Kaira has also been heard, on other occasions, saying that the main accused in the case — Baitullah Mehsud — has been killed, whereas the others are behind bars, waiting for trial.
Even former home minister of Sindh, Dr Zulfiqar Mirza, who has expressed his disgust for what he calls Mr Malik’s disrespect for the truth has proved to be no different than Mr Malik on the issue of Ms Bhutto’s assassination.
On the eve of third death anniversary of Ms Bhutto in December 2010, he said he knew who the killers were. But despite having fallen out with his party leadership he never provided any further details.
No wonder then as people gather at Garhi Khuda Bakhsh to commemorate her fifth death anniversary there will be excitement in the air, across Pakistan.
Hot rhetoric is expected as are mysterious pronouncements. Perhaps some also expect some hint or declaration about the upcoming election.
But even the most die-hard jiyala will not expect any truth about the assassins who cut short the life of one of Pakistan’s greatest leaders.
The PPP is no longer focused on its recent past.
With additional reporting by Usman Hashmi.