Bhutto's son, 19, to succeed her as PPP leader
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Sunday, December 30, 2007 10:22PM EST
Benazir Bhutto's son has been named her successor as head of the Pakistan People's Party -- but the real power will likely lie with her husband, named co-chairman.
"The party's long struggle for democracy will continue with renewed vigour," Bilawal Zardari told a news conference in Naudero, his mother's ancestral village.
"My mother always said democracy is the best revenge."
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir's father, founded the party in 1967, making Bilawal the third generation of Bhutto to become leader. Bilawal will adopt the Bhutto surname.
The Bhutto political dynasty extends back four generations, and Benazir Bhutto made clear in her will that her son should succeed her.
"They're like the Kennedy family, star-studded and cursed," said political analyst Talat Masood. "She knew she could die, so she even chose the exact place where she should be buried."
Saeed Minhas, resident editor of the Daily Times in Islamabad, says Bilawal's presence could give the party a boost they would not otherwise receive.
"They have changed his name because they know Bhutto's name carries a lot of significance in Pakistani politics," Minhas told CTV Newsnet on Sunday.
"Pakistani politics have always been about dynasties. This is the Bhutto dynasty."
Minhas said Bilawal will receive some leniency within the party, but could face splinter groups if he doesn't maintain his mother's policies.
The 19-year-old is currently a law student at Oxford University in Britain, his mother's alma mater. He has no political experience.
His father, Asi Ali Zardari, will be the effective leader as Bilawal continues his studies. Zardari told reporters to direct questions at him, saying his son was of a "tender age."
Zardari served eight years in detention on corruption charges before being released in 2004. He had the nickname "Mr. 10 Per Cent" bestowed upon him when he was environment minister in his wife's government.
He has denied charges of wide-scale graft taking place during his wife's two terms as prime minister.
The PPP said it will take part in the Jan. 8 parliamentary election in the wake of Benazir Bhutto's assassination on Thursday.
If they win, Zardari said Makhdoom Amin Fahim would be the likely candidate for prime minister.
In response, the Pakistan Muslim League-N party of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif said it will contest the Jan. 8 parliamentary elections. The party had previously said it would not take part.
Canada's NDP leader Jack Layton said it was a "hopeful sign" that the PPP moved so quickly to take part in the election. He described the assassination as an attack designed to destabilize the move to democracy.
Layton also said an international investigation into Bhutto's death should take place and that Canada should offer to help in the election process.
"When you have a situation where there are so many questions about how this assassination was treated and when the evidence was apparently cleared away within hours ... the involvement of the international community could be very important."
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, the ruling party, said the elections would likely be delayed.
"How long the postponement will be for will be up to the Election Commission," Tariq Azim, information secretary, told The Associated Press.
"I think we are looking at a delay of a few weeks ... up to three or four months."
The United States, Canada and some other western countries want Pakistan to press on with elections, even though Bhutto's killing left her party leaderless.
Pakistan's election commission will hold an emergency meeting on Monday to decide how to proceed.
Zardari wants the United Nations and Britain to help investigate exactly how his wife was killed.
The government is claiming she died from a bump to the head following a suicide bomber's blast, but Bhutto's supporters reject that.
They claim an assassin shot her first, then detonated a bomb. However, no autopsy was conducted on Bhutto's body.
Unrest continues in the meantime.
Two suspected suicide bombers died in the eastern city of Bahawalnagar died early Sunday when their bomb detonated prematurely. They were near the residence of a senior leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q.
More than 40 people have died since Bhutto was slain. Zardari urged his party's supporters to show restraint.
"We will avenge the murder of Bhutto through the democratic process after winning the elections," he said.
"God willing, when it is the Peoples Party's reign, when the Peoples Party government is formed, then we would have taken revenge for Bibi's blood and that blood would not have gone waste," Zardari said, calling his late wife by her nickname.
With a report by CTV's Paul Workman in Pakistan and files from The Associated Press