Benazir Bhutto’s widower, Asif Ali Zardari, has been named as her successor to the Pakistan People’s Party leadership; Zardari subsequently appointed their 19 year old son, Bilawal, as party chairperson. According to Bloomberg, Zardai and Bilawal will run the party as “co-chairpersons”, with BBC News reporting that Bilawal “will take the role [of party leader] in a ceremonial capacity while he finishes his studies at Oxford University.”
More from BBC News:
Another senior party official, vice-chairman Makhdoom Amin Fahim, said Ms Bhutto had named Mr Zardari as her successor as party chairman.
But he said Mr Zardari had turned it down in favour of his son – a decision he said the party leadership had endorsed.
Mr Zardawi also announced that the couple’s children would now change their name to Bhutto.
Sitting between his father and Mr Fahim, Bilawal himself said his father would run the party while he was away at university.
But Mr Zardari blocked any further reporters’ questions to Bilawal, saying that although chairman, he was still of “tender age”.
Bloomberg also reports that, following Zardari’s announcement, “former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reversed his earlier decision to boycott the election, which is scheduled for Jan. 8 but may be delayed.” Zardari also said that Fahim will be the PPP candidate for Prime Minister (as TIME reported on Saturday). Neither Zardari nor Bilawal have registered as candidates for the election, thus are ineligible to run or be appointed to the position.
AFX reports that the dynastic handover wasn’t entirely free of controversy:
Bhutto’s 51-year-old sister Sanam, who was supported by many PPP members to take over, had refused to accept any responsibility in the party because of her family commitments in London, another of the officials said.
The appointment means the party leadership follows the bloodline for a third generation, some four decades after it was founded by Bilawal’s grandfather and former prime minister, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.
As thousands of mourners outside beat their chests in grief before the meeting started, Zardari told them: ‘Benazir Bhutto sacrificed her life for Pakistan’s survival and democracy. We will continue Bhutto’s mission.’
‘The Pakistan People’s Party will remain intact as the leading political force in the country,’ he said.
The crowd chanted slogans against President Pervez Musharraf including ‘Curse on Musharraf, Musharraf is a killer!’ outside the house in the southern village of Naudero.
But many in the crowd who had massed on the third and final official day of mourning for the 54-year-old Bhutto began chanting for Sanam Bhutto to take the reins of the party, witnesses said.
Analysts urged caution.
‘Bilawal is just 19 years old, he needs to be groomed,’ political analyst and retired general Talat Masood said. ‘They should let him complete his education.’
He warned that by opting for a ‘dynasty-based’ succession, the party risked becoming factionalised.
Political commentator Najam Sethi said Zardari would ‘run the show to keep the place warm for his son Bilawal, just like Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi is doing for her young son Rahul in India.’
PPP vice president Makhdoom Amin Fahim and the party’s Punjab province president Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi will be on a so-called ‘advisory council’ for their young leader, party officials said.
“Ceremonial”, indeed; the following sober prescription from Tariq Ali, published this past Friday, seems even more pertinent today:
To be dependent on a person or a family may be necessary at certain times, but it is a structural weakness, not a strength for a political organisation. The People’s party needs to be refounded as a modern and democratic organisation, open to honest debate and discussion, defending social and human rights, uniting the many disparate groups and individuals in Pakistan desperate for any halfway decent alternative, and coming forward with concrete proposals to stabilise occupied and war-torn Afghanistan. This can and should be done. The Bhutto family should not be asked for any more sacrifices.
The very fact that Bhutto’s will names her 19 year old son Bilawal as her “heir” as leader of the PPP and hands the co-chairmanship to her astonishigly corrupt husband speaks volumes about Bhutto’s own preference for oligarchy over democracy.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Bhutto’s PPP aren’t the best hope for Pakistan – they’re simply the most electable. In that, they hold something very much in common with America’s Democrats and Republicans, who are also enamoured of rich oligarchies.
Update: Oh yeah, I forgot: the Bush Admin doesn’t do Plan B’s. “Stay the course ” is more than a pithy, soundbitten catchphrase. It’s the bedrock dogma that the Neocon gospel is built upon.