Bilawal new PPP chairman, Fahim to be Prime Ministerial candidate

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Islamabad, Dec 30 (UNI) Slain former Pakistan's Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's 19-year-old son Bilawal was today named chairman of the Pakistan Peoples' Party as it decided to fight the coming elections with her long-time loyalist and deputy Makhdoom Amin Fahim as its prime ministerial candidate.

Bhutto's husband Asif Ali Zardari, has been named co-chairman of the party, at the meeting of the party's Central Executive Committe (CEC), presided over by party's deputy leader Makhdoom Fahim, who endorsed her will. Bilawal, who is currently studying at Oxford University, read out his mother's will during the CEC meeting, which lasted over three hours.

He said his father would look after party affairs till completion of his education.

''My mother always said that democracy is the best revenge,'' he said, adding he will stand as symbol of federation and the party's long historic struggle to democracy will continue.

Although Bhutto, in her will, wanted her husband to assume the chairmanship, yet he said he had decided to entrust the responsibility to their 19-year son. The announcement was greeted with frenzied applause and slogan-shouting by the party members.

''Benazir wanted me to become chairman in event of her death but I decided to entrust this responsibility to our son Bilawal,'' he told a crowded press conference along with Bilawal in their hometown of Naudero this evening.

Bhutto was killed in a gun and bomb attack after addressing a public rally in Rawalpindi on Thursday.

Mr Zardari announced that his party will take part in polls.

The announcement came amid reports that the government may postpone the elections till March.

''We will contest elections,'' he said and appealed to former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League (PML(N)) to end their boycott of elections, which he had announced in an expression of solidarity and support after Bhutto's assassination.

Mr Zardari also said his party would seek help of the United Nations in Bhutto's assassination probe, like the world body's investigation in the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

''We do not trust Pakistan government's inquiry and will write to the UN to send international team of investigators to probe the murder,'' he said.

Asserting ''Benazir's blood will not go in waste and the party would work for democracy and poor,'' he urged PPP workers to take part in the election and ''bury the killer former ruling Pakistan Muslim League.'' Reports also quoted a PML(N) spokesman as saying that the party leadership would review its decision to boycott the elections.

Mr Fahim, widely known as Benazir's right hand man, had led the party during the period of her self-exile from 1999 to October 2007.

A Benazir loyalist, he was in the same vehicle with Benazir at the time she was assassinated.

Earlier, Benazir's close aide Sherry Rehman said PPP could not thrust party leadership on Bilawal.

''Bilawal is keen to complete his studies but that does not rule him out. Even if he is chosen, there might be someone who will take over for some time,'' she said.

Bilawal Zardari, born on September 21, 1988, is set to study political science at Oxford University. He graduated from Rashid School for Boys in Dubai, successfully gaining top grades in his GCSE exams.

Like his father, Bilawal enjoys horse riding and like both the Bhutto and the Zardari clan, he has a passion for hunting and target shooting.

Bilawal gives importance to physical fitness and is a black belt in Taekwondo. Bilawal has two younger sisters -- Bakhtawar and Aasifa.

UNI

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