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Bhutto's 'political will' terms Zardari as 'man of courage'
Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad | February 05, 2008 17:41 IST
Describing her husband Asif Ali Zardari as 'a man of courage and honour', Pakistan's ex-premier Benazir Bhutto [Images] had named him as 'interim' leader of Pakistan People's Party in the event of her death, but did not back anyone as the prime ministerial candidate in her 'political will'.
"I would like my husband Asif Ali Zardari to lead you in the interim period until you and he decide what is best," she wrote in a letter to her party in October 2007, two days before her October 18 homecoming from self-imposed exile.
"I say this because he is a man of courage and honour. He spent 11 years in prison without bending despite torture. He has the political stature to keep our party united," she said in the hand-written letter described by the PPP as Bhutto's political will, which was released to the media in Islamabad on Tuesday.
Bhutto also said she feared for the future of Pakistan. "Please continue the fight against extremism, dictatorship, poverty and ignorance," she wrote.
The letter was read out at a meeting of the PPP's central executive committee held three days after Bhutto was assassinated in Rawalpindi on December 27. It was, however, not made public till now.
At the meeting held at Bhutto's ancestral village of Naudero on December 30, Zardari suggested that Bhutto's 19-year-old son Bilawal should be made PPP Chairman while he would hold the post of co-chairman and lead the party till Bilawal completed his studies in Britain. This was accepted by the PPP's top leadership.
During a press conference after that meeting, Zardari said that his slain wife had wanted PPP vice-chairman Makhdoom Amin Fahim to be the prime ministerial candidate, though the party would take a decision on this matter at a later stage.
Bhutto's letter, however, does not name anyone as the prime ministerial candidate.
Differences have apparently emerged within the party on this issue, with some leaders backing Zardari for the position while some others are apprehensive about supporting him as the prime ministerial candidate in view of his reputation, especially the numerous graft charges levelled against him.
Political observers noted that the release of the letter appeared to be aimed at consolidating Zardari's position with less than two weeks to go for the February 18 elections.
PPP leader Taj Haider said, "Every document written by Benazir Bhutto is binding upon us, as binding as a will. Whatever is written there is truth and truth shall be binding on all of us".
"(The letter) has to be construed as a document binding on us, whatever its legal status. That is for lawyers to decide, but for all those who have worked with Benazir Bhutto, whatever she has written is very important," he added.
Haider also said the party would decide on a prime ministerial candidate after the polls.
In the letter, Bhutto said she was 'honoured' to lead the officials and members of the PPP. "No leader could be as proud of their party, their dedication, devotion and discipline to the mission of (PPP founder) Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto for a federal, democratic and egalitarian Pakistan as I have been proud of you," she wrote.
"I salute your courage and your sense of honour. I salute you for standing by your sister through two military dictatorships," she added.
Benazir concluded by writing, "I wish all of you success in fulfilling the manifesto of our party and in serving the downtrodden, discriminated and oppressed people of Pakistan. Dedicate yourselves to freeing them from poverty and backwardness as you have done in the past".