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Benazir Bhutto's 19-year-old son and husband chosen to lead her party into elections

Benazir Bhutto's 19-year-old son and husband chosen to lead her party into elections

Benazir Bhutto's political party named her 19-year-old son as its symbolic leader and left day-to-day control to her husband, extending Pakistan's most enduring political dynasty following the opposition leader's assassination.
The major parties appeared to agree that Pakistan's general elections should take place as scheduled on Jan. 8 despite street violence and political turmoil triggered by Bhutto's slaying Thursday.
The Election Commission planned to discuss the timing of the polls Monday.
A successful vote would bolster U.S.-backed plans to restore democracy to the nuclear-armed country as it battles rising Islamic extremism.
Rioting subsided Sunday after destruction that left at least 44 dead and caused ten of millions of dollars in damage, but bitterness remained over the government's response to the gun and suicide attack that killed Bhutto.
The central executive committee of her Pakistan People's Party met Sunday and handed the leadership of the party to the eldest of her three children, Bilawal Zardari, who accepted but said he would first complete his studies at Oxford University.
He said his father, Asif Ali Zardari, who was officially designated co-chairman, would be the effective party leader.
"The party's long struggle for democracy will continue with renewed vigor," Bilawal told a news conference that was repeatedly interrupted by emotional chants from Bhutto's supporters. "My mother always said democracy is the best revenge."
The appointment of Bhutto's husband, Asif Ali Zardari, was not without its own complications. A former Cabinet minister who spent eight years in prison on corruption accusations, he is known as "Mr. 10 Percent" for allegedly taking kickbacks and is viewed with suspicion by many Pakistanis.
At a news conference on Sunday, Zardari said the opposition party _ Pakistan's largest _ had no confidence in the government's ability to bring the killers to justice and urged the United Nations to establish a committee like the one investigating the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
The decisions about the party's future were made at a closed-door meeting in the sprawling family estate in the south of the country where the two-time former prime minister grew up.
Bhutto's grandfather was a senior figure in the movement that helped Pakistan split from India and lead it to independence in 1947. Her father _ Pakistan's first elected prime minister _ founded the Pakistan Peoples Party in 1967 and its electoral success since then has largely depended on the Bhutto name.
Zardari, who spent eight years under detention on corruption charges in Pakistan before his release in late 2004, is a power broker who served as investment minister in Bhutto's second government. He has denied the graft charges.
He immediately announced the party's participation in the elections, perhaps sensing sympathy for Bhutto and her family could translate into a strong performance in the polls, but said another party leader, Makhdoom Amin Fahim, would likely be their candidate for prime minister if they won.
He also appealed to the party of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to reverse an earlier decision to boycott the polls. Sharif's party later agreed.
Tariq Azim, a spokesman for the pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League-Q party, congratulated the decision not to seek a delay in the vote.
"We welcome it, and we are also ready for the contest on Jan. 8," he said after earlier predicting the election may be delayed up to four months.
The British and U.S. governments had been pushing Bhutto, a moderate Muslim seen as friendly to the West, to form a power-sharing agreement with Musharraf after the election _ a combination seen as the most effective in the fight against al-Qaida, which is believed to be regrouping in the country's lawless tribal areas.
But many of her supporters have alleged that political allies of Musharraf were behind her killing, which the government has blamed on Islamic militants with links to al-Qaida.


Updated : 2021-01-24 15:15 GMT+08:00