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Pakistan: Bilawal to make formal entry into politics today

Updated: December 27, 2012, 9:05 AM IST
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Pakistan: Bilawal to make formal entry into politics today
Bilawal Zardari Bhutto will on Thursday take over his party PPP's campaign for 2013's general election.

Islamabad: Pakistan People's Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will make his formal entry into the hurly burly of Pakistani politics at an event to be held on Thursday to mark the fifth death anniversary of his mother Benazir Bhutto. "Bilawal will make his entry into active politics during the meeting to be held at Garhi Khuda Bux (in Sindh) and take over the PPP's campaign for 2013's general election," said a confidant of President Asif Ali Zardari.

Both 24-year-old Bilawal and his father will make speeches at the event to be held outside the Bhutto family's mausoleum near the PPP's stronghold of Naudero, said the confidant who did not want to be named. There has been speculation that Zardari might also announce the date for the next general election at tomorrow's event but the confidant said no final decision had been made in this regard.

"The President is keeping things close to his chest and he is the person who will make the decision about announcing the date for the polls," the confidant said. The current National Assembly or lower house of parliament will complete its five-year term in March and PPP leaders have indicated that the next general election is likely to be held in April or May. Polls will simultaneously be held to the four provincial assemblies.

During his speech at the event in Garhi Khuda Bux on Thursday, Bilawal is expected to make public a report on the investigation into Benazir Bhutto's assassination by a suicide bomber after an election rally in Rawalpindi in 2007. Bilawal himself cannot contest polls till he turns 25 in September 2013.

Zardari, who is the co-chairman of the PPP, has convened a meeting of the party's central executive committee at Naudero on Friday. This meeting is expected to fine tune the PPP's campaign for the polls, party insiders said.

The PPP's top leadership was mulling a move to elevate former premier Yousuf Raza Gilani to the post of co-chairman but this is now unlikely to happen due to opposition from several leaders, including Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Law Minister Farooq Naek, sources in the party said.

A recent Supreme Court judgement that said the President should be non-partisan and have no political affiliations has made it almost impossible for Zardari to play an active role in the PPP's election campaign. The Lahore High Court is hearing a petition seeking action against Zardari under the contempt of court law for failing to act on an order that expected him to give up the post of chief of the PPP.

Religious Affairs Minister Khursheed Shah said earlier this month that Zardari would not lead or participate in the PPP's election campaign. Under these circumstances, Zardari was keen to rope in Gilani to play a greater role as co-chairman of the PPP.

"The move was shot down because of opposition from some leaders. The party felt it would be better to avoid any divisions just before the elections," said a source. Gilani was convicted for contempt and disqualified by the apex court after he refused to revive graft cases against Zardari in Switzerland.

He subsequently became estranged from Zardari as he felt he was being given no importance within the party. Zardari visited Gilani in his hometown of Multan last month to allay his concerns about being abandoned by PPP.

First Published: December 27, 2012, 9:05 AM IST
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