Bilawal to make formal entry into Pakistan politics



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
next year'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 Thursday'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 next
year.




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.




Gilani is now expected to be the main force in the PPP's campaign in
Punjab as the party's current head in the province, federal minister
Manzoor Wattoo, has "failed miserably" in mounting a challenge to the
PML-N, sources said.




Gilani will also play an important role in the PPP's campaign across the
country, the sources said.




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