The son of former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto has launched his political career on the fifth anniversary of his mother’s death.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the 24-year-old son of current President Asif Ali Zardari, made his first major public speech before thousands at the family mausoleum at Larkana, in the southern province of Sindh.
The Oxford-educated graduate will be too young, however, to stand if elections go ahead as expected in the spring, the AFP news agency reported. The minimum age requirement to hold office is 25 years.
His mother, who was twice elected prime minister, was assassinated after an election rally in Rawalpindi, the headquarters of Pakistan’s army, on December 27, 2007.
Political analyst Hasan Askari told the AFP the event was “the formal launching of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari into politics.”
Askari added: “Bilawal has symbolic value in the Bhutto family and Zardari would like this link to be used as symbolism in the election.”
The debut of Bilawal Bhutto comes as the ruling by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is expected to release names of people it says assassinated Bhutto.
Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder, reporting from Islamabad, said many people in Pakistan had questioned why the names were being released now.
Hyder said the names were being released despite claims from the PPP information minister and the Bhutto family that the former prime minister was killed by the Pakistani Taliban.
Bilawal Bhutto, co-chairman of the PPP with his father, in May accused former military ruler General Pervez Musharraf of “murdering” his mother by deliberately sabotaging her security.
In turn, the Musharraf regime has blamed the assassination on Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud. Mehsud, who denied any involvement, was killed in a US drone attack in August 2009.
“Let us resolve to defeat the forces of extremism and terrorism and work for the progress and prosperity of the country,” Bilawal Bhutto said in a statement.
A Pakistani political analyst said Bilawal Bhutto had now officially embarked on a political career.
The Bhutto family has been a force in Pakistani politics for almost all of the country’s 65-year history, and the Bhuttos are an almost ever-present element in the rhetoric of PPP leaders, who frequently eulogise the party’s two “martyrs” as champions of the common man’s struggle against a repressive “establishment”.
Benazir’s father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto led the country from 1971 until he was ousted in a military coup in 1977. He was hanged in 1979 after being convicted of authorising the murder of a political opponent.
With a general election due in the spring, analysts say the ruling PPP is eager to introduce a third generation of the dynasty to the public.
As head of state, President Zardari, who came to power in elections held a month after his wife’s murder, is barred from leading the PPP election campaign. He is also hugely unpopular, observers claim, and allegedly tainted by years of corruption allegations.
Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf said the country should “shun prejudices and maintain unity” to pay homage to Benazir.