The only son of assassinated former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto told hundreds of thousands of supporters yesterday, on the fifth anniversary of his mother’s death, that he would carry forward her legacy, an appearance designed to anoint him as a political heir.
“I am the heir to the martyr,” Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, 24, told the crowd in the southern province of Sindh, referring to his mother and to his grandfather, the founder of the current ruling party, who was hanged by a former military ruler.
“If you kill one Bhutto, there will be a Bhutto in every house,” he added.
Bhutto was joined by hundreds of high-ranking officials, including the current president, his father Asif Zardari, to commemorate his mother’s killing in a gun and suicide attack during a 2007 political rally.
Making his first address to a mass rally televised live, he said: “Bhutto is not a name, it is an obsession, a passion, a love. You can chain our feet to the ground but we will still keep moving.”
Prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf told followers waving the Pakistan People’s Party’s green, black, and red flag that the Oxford-educated Bhutto “will prove to be an important turning point for democracy and politics”.
Bhutto was named party chairman after his mother’s death, but his father was named co-chair due to his youth. He is still not old enough to contest the elections scheduled for spring — the minimum age is 25. Bhutto, who has inherited his mother’s good looks, will only turn 25 next September.
Zardari, locking arms with his son and waving to the crowd, said: “Bilawal has completed his studies, but the time has now come to complete his political training, to stay in Pakistan among its people and learn from them.”
Benazir Bhutto’s killer has never been caught and a UN inquiry found that Pakistani authorities had failed to protect her or properly investigate her death. The UN also said that high-ranking Pakistani officials had tried to block its investigation.
In a 30-minute address delivered alongside his mother’s onion-domed tomb, Bhutto denounced the courts for what he said was the slow pace of the trial of her alleged killers. He also touched on issues including women’s rights, insurgent violence, and the economy.
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