[Guest post by DRJ]
Sounding more like a monarchy than a political party, the Pakistan People’s Party has announced that Benazir Bhutto’s 19-year-old son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will succeed her as head of the PPP:
“The teeenage son of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto will succeed her as the leader of the country’s largest democratic party, Pakistan People’s Party, the party announced today.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, 19, assumed not just a new political position, but also a new name to include his mother’s last name, a reminder of his tie to the political dynasty that began with his grandfather. He is now the leader — at least nominally — of the largest political party in this turbulent nuclear nation.
The televised news conference held in the Bhuttos’ ancestral home of Naudero, Larkana, was a bizarre and unprecedented spectacle to secure the future of Pakistan’s most prominent political dynasty. When it was announced that the 19-year-old would be the party’s new leader, the crowd erupted in cheers, chanting, “Long live Bhutto.”
The transfer was named in Benazir Bhutto’s Will. Bilawal is not expected to be the Party’s candidate for Prime Minister:
“Benazir Bhutto, the slain former Pakistani prime minister, names her 19-year-old son Bilawal as her successor and the new leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party in her will, and her husband Asif Ali Zardari is expected to act as a kind of regent to him until he comes of age, a close family friend who has read the will told NEWSWEEK on Saturday.
Neither Bilawal nor Zardari, however, is expected to be named as the prime ministerial candidate of the PPP, the friend said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. That honor will go to a senior official, although it is not believed to be Amin Fahim, the vice chairman of the party who served as interim leader during Bhutto’s eight-year exile.”
Bilawal is a first-year student at Oxford. He will follow his mother as head of the PPP, just as she succeeded her father as leader-in-exile of the Party he created:
“Bilawal, who enrolled as a student at Oxford University only this year, is scheduled to read the will himself at a party gathering on Sunday. There is little doubt that he will be accepted by the party rank and file; the PPP has been an all-family affair in Pakistan’s dynastic politics since Benazir Bhutto’s father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, founded it 40 years ago. Bhutto had given herself the title of “chairperson for life” and her only previous public signal as to who she wanted her political heir to be occurred when she sent Bilawal to register to vote for the first time earlier this year.”
In related news, Pakistani election officials will decide tomorrow whether to go forward with the January 8 election. Rioting destroyed polling places and voter registration rolls in 11 districts, and there were security fears in other locations.
The US State Department encouraged Pakistan to go forward with the elections or to name a specific date for elections to be held.