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Bhutto's son Bilawal named PPP chairperson
December 30, 2007 19:28 IST
Last Updated: December 30, 2007 22:17 IST
Settling the succession issue three days after Benazir Bhutto's [Images] assassination, the Pakistan People's Party on Sunday anointed her 19-year-old son Bilawal to head the party and decided to take part in next month's general elections.
Bhutto's husband Asif Ali Zardari will be the co-chairman of the party.
The decisions were taken at a crucial meeting of the PPP's central executive committee, held in the ancestral home of the Bhuttos in Naudero, Larkana in Sindh Province.
Bhutto's will, which was written two days before her return from exile, was read out at the meeting. She had named Zardari as her political successor if something unfortunate happened to her.
However, Zardari passed on the mantle to Bilawal, a student of Oxford University. The decision was endorsed by PPP leaders.
Addressing a crowded press conference, Bilawal, flanked by Zardari and Fahim, said that he would continue the struggle to restore democracy in Pakistan with as much vigour as his mother desired.
Now that he was the leader, PPP's "long and historic struggle for democracy will continue with new vigour," Bilawal said, adding, "My mother always said that democracy is the best revenge".
Bilawal also said that as he was pursuing his studies, his father would be looking after the party affairs in his absence. He will take full control of the party after he finished his studies.
Zardari said that the party has decided to participate in the January 8 elections and appealed to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N to reconsider its decision to boycott the polls.
"We have decided to go for elections......We are grateful to Nawaz Sharif for announcing his boycott of elections but we appeal to him to end the boycott and take part," he said at the emotional press conference.
He also announced that Makhdoom Amin Fahim, a close confidant of Bhutto and vice chairman of the party, will be the PPP's prime ministerial candidate in the elections.
This, he said, was mentioned by Bhutto in her will.
About Bilawal, who was using Bhutto as his surname, Zardari said his son would henceforth be called as Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and carry forward the political legacy of the slain leader.
Rejecting the Pakistan government's version about how Benazir Bhutto was killed, he demanded an international inquiry under United Nations supervision, as was done in the case of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, who was assassinated a few years ago.
"We demand a Hariri Commission style investigation....We are writing to the United Nations for an international probe into her martyrdom," Zardari said.
He maintained that Benazir Bhutto had a bullet wound in her head and this was corroborated by his sister who is a doctor.
Ridiculing the government's claim that Benazir Bhutto's head was hit by the lever of the sunroof of her vehicle, Zardari said perhaps they have not examined the car, which has a rubber cover on the roof from inside.
Earlier today, thousands of PPP supporters gathered outside the mousoleum where Bhutto was buried and chanted slogans against President Pervez Musharraf [Images], on the third and final day of official mourning.
"Curse on Musharraf, Musharraf is a killer," they said as they beat their chests.
Zardari told the mourners that Bhutto sacrificed her life for the sake of the country and for democracy. "Her blood will not be in vain..... Bhutto will remain alive in the hearts of people.... we will continue Bhutto's mission," he said.
As speculation raged over the fate of the elections, Pakistan's ruling party Pakistan Muslim League-Q that the elections may be delayed by up to three to four months in the wake of Bhutto's assassination.
"If you ask me for my personal opinion, I feel the polls should be delayed in view of the assassination of (former premier) Benazir Bhutto," party leader Tariq Azim said.
Expecting the authorities to announce postponement of elections within 24 hours, he said "We are looking at a delay for a few weeks......up to three or four months".
Earlier, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's PML-N party indicated that it is ready to reverse its decision to boycott the polls if the PPP decides to take part in them.
"We will definitely contest the elections if the PPP decides to contest," senior PML-N leader Sadiq ul-Farooq said.