Karachi, Jan.28 : Asif Ali Zardari may not have the much sought after name of Bhutto, but this has not stopped him from proclaiming his late wife, Benazir, as his soul mate- and he does not wish to acknowledge or accept that she has gone from his life.
Though not as polished, or as charismatic and eloquent as his late wife or her father, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Zardari retains her Blackberry mobile, which she had in her possession at the time of her assassination on December 27, 2007.
When talking about Benazir, he gets tears in his eyes, and says that he uses her BlackBerry to send messages to party leaders.
"I learnt that you were one of those fortunate persons with whom she often communicated through this instrument for furthering the cause for which she so valiantly stood, fought for and ultimately laid down her life," Zardari recalls as saying in his first message to the party top brass immediately after her assassination.
In many ways, Zardari is an unlikely choice to lead the Pakistan People's Party (PPP). He was once considered a playboy, a polo-playing businessman who loved booze, women and discos, a husband unworthy of an arranged marriage in 1987 with the worldly and sober Bhutto.
Even during her two aborted terms as prime minister in the late 1980s and mid-1990s, Zardari was considered crude and abrasive. He once crossed his legs and showed the sole of his shoe to the Saudi king, a move thought to be so uncouth that people in Pakistan still talk about it.
And, according to the Chicago Tribune, some Bhutto allies say Zardari tainted her reputation with questionable business dealings.ardari spent 111/2 years behind bars on corruption and murder charges, though he was never convicted and several charges were thrown out of court. He went into exile after being released in 2004.
Party leaders say the corruption charges were politically motivated, used by the establishment to discredit political leaders.
The new Zardari the one who returned to Pakistan after his wife was killed is a different man, supporters say. He is charming. He is well-spoken. He is less arrogant. And unlike his wife, who ruled the party almost like a queen, Zardari is inclusive, holding meetings of leaders and asking for advice.
"She could get away with anything," said one party leader, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. "He has got flexibility, which is so welcome."
Zardari has little choice but to be flexible. People are wary of him, and he knows it.
However, in Lyari, a slum in Karachi where gangs, drugs and guns hold sway, the red, green and black flags of the People's Party suggest that it has always been a stronghold of Bhutto. Here, people remember shaking Benazir's hand and of sacrificing their lives for her in the October 18, 2007 bomb blast. That same feeling is absent when it comes to accepting Zardari.
Many say the party could fracture after the elections, especially if certain people close to Bhutto are pushed aside by Zardari, who has surrounded himself more with his own allies in recent weeks.
The party could also could split because of its disparate composition -- groups of feudal landlords, moderate middle-class reformers who dislike dynastic politics, and poor people - who have been bound together by the charisma of the Bhutto family and the reformist legacy of the party.
Zardari says he will have to work hard to be a leader seen like Bhutto. "I have to earn respect," he said. "I have to earn that kind of devotion.