Former military dictator has property confiscated as anti-terror court jails two police officials in relation to 2007 assassination
One of the most controversial trials in Pakistani history has ended with the former military dictator Pervez Musharraf declared a fugitive and his property ordered confiscated after he failed to show in court over the assassination 10 years ago of Benazir Bhutto.
Two high-ranking police officials were sentenced on Thursday to 17 years in prison but the verdict, while bringing some closure to a process many had thought would never conclude, stops short of sentencing anyone for the murder. The police officials were found guilty only of negligence and mistreatment of evidence, and five accused militants were acquitted.
By failing to bring its most prominent suspect, ex-president Musharraf, to justice, the anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi set “a dangerous precedent,” said Saroop Ijaz, a lawyer and researcher with Human Rights Watch in Pakistan. “This is a farce. Musharraf is in plain sight. And he regularly appears on television.”
Musharraf, who is accused of conspiring to murder the former prime minister, has been in self-imposed exile in Dubai since 2016, when he left the country after a period in house arrest, after the ministry of interior lifted his travel ban.
“10 years later and we still await justice. Abettors punished but those truly guilty of my mothers murder roam free,” one of Bhutto’s daughters, Aseefa, said on Twitter.
Bhutto’s son, Bilawal, called the result “disappointing and unacceptable”.
In a move that surprised some observers, the court also acquitted five suspects linked to the Pakistani Taliban (TTP), who had been accused of being involved in the conspiracy to kill Bhutto.
“The acquittal of al-Qaida/Taliban terrorists against whom evidence has been provided is most surprising and raises several questions. On its face it seems a triumph of al-Qaida militants,” Bhutto’s party, the PPP, said in a written statement.
The PPP claims that Musharraf himself was behind Bhutto’s murder. He has denied the allegations.
During her career, Bhutto, a two-term prime minister, was celebrated in the west as a beacon of democracy, and much feted for her glamorous reputation. People Magazine named her one of the world’s 50 most beautiful people.
In the region, she was equally idolised by supporters as a champion for women’s rights, and attacked by opponents for corruption, incompetence and nepotism.