Bilawal to get 24-hour protection at Oxford

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London, Jan 1 (UNI) Slain PPP leader Benazir Bhutto's son Bilawal, a student of Oxford University, is expected to be given 24-hour protection when he returns to his studies in Britain.

Officers from Scotland Yard's Diplomatic Protection Group will carry out a risk assessment and talk to officials in the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), which 19-year-old Bilawal Bhutto Zadari now leads, to decide what level of protection he should receive.

Bilawal, who was named on Sunday as Chairman of the party founded by his grandfather Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, instantly became a target for Islamic militants and political opponents.

Protection for the new leader could range from a panic alarm and special security measures, including sensors, being installed in his student accommodation to round the clock protection by armed officers in the DPG.

''Clearly if a specific threat is made against him, then security will be massively increased,'' Telegraph quoted a security source, as saying.

Bilawal is a first year history student at Christ Church, Oxford, and he is due to start the next academic term on January 13.

However, it was not clear yesterday whether he would delay his return until a date is agreed for Pakistan's General Elections.

PPP's general secretary for Greater London, Mohsin Bari said party officials had yet to speak to Scotland Yard about the new leader's protection and planned to hold a meeting as soon as possible.

''We do not know yet when Bilawal will return to take up his studies but he faces the same dangers as his mother. He was in danger as soon as he was announced joint chairman of the party by his father. He will have the same enemies as his mother because he is continuing where she left off and following the same policies,'' he added.

''It is our responsibility and the responsibility of the British government to look after him while he is in this country. We will talk to the police and take advice,'' Mr Bari further said.

Refusing to comment on Bilawal's security, a Scotland Yard spokeswoman said,''We never comment on issues of personal protection.'' A spokesman of Oxford University said, ''We will review our security arrangements. We take the security of all our students, including high profile students, extremely seriously.'' ''We cannot comment on individual students even if they are high profile or in the public eye,'' he mentioned.

The university is expected to take advice from the intelligence services and Thames Valley police as it prepares to welcome the 19-year-old boy back to Oxford.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is said to have formed a close circle of friends, who themselves might be subject to questions from the authorities.

Accompanied by Benazir Bhutto, when he enrolled in the University in October, he joined the Oxford Union. Recalling the time, a family friend Victoria Schofield said, ''The first thing she did was enrol him in the Oxford Union. She had been a member there and was very keen that he should be too.'' Like many students he was bombarded with offers of all sorts of societies but his primary interest was to join the Union.

He was particularly thrilled to get into Christ Church because that's where his uncle and grandfather studied.

From the moment he stepped inside the famous hall, the debates became Bilawal's main area of interest outside his studies.

Reportedly he spends hours at the Union listening to debates, although he has yet to speak in one.

He is expected to attend a special debate to be held on January 17, in honour of his mother. Whether he makes his maiden speech there, remains to be seen.

He spent his first term studying British history, and will return to study general history.

According to friends, he settled into life at Oxford, where his mother, uncle and grandfather studied extremely well. A relaxed and easy going young man with a sharp sense of humour, Bilawal shuns the university high life in favour of study and socialising with his friends.

'' He's a quiet, almost shy type, but very popular with those around him. It's not like he gets any special treatment or has bodyguards around him, although that might change now as he's head of a political party,'' a fellow student said.


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