Islamabad: Ruling Pakistan People’s Party’s nominal head Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has reportedly expressed his “displeasure” at his father President Asif Ali Zardari’s “watered down response” to the killing of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer by a police guard with links to extremists.
Bilawal, who has been playing a greater role in the affairs of the PPP since Zardari travelled to Dubai last week for the treatment of a heart condition, has “independent opinions about events as well as party affairs”, a party insider said.
“At one of the meetings, he (Bilawal) expressed his displeasure over his father’s watered down response to the killing of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer. He thought President Zardari should have taken a stronger position to denounce religious radicalisation that led to the Governor’s murder,” the unnamed party insider told the Dawn newspaper.
Party insiders disputed the popular perception that Bilawal is young and may not have developed his political faculties.
The 23-year-old Bilawal, who is ineligible to become a member of parliament till September 2013, was thrust into a central position by his father’s abrupt departure to Dubai.
Bilawal seems keen on performing his role as PPP chairman, particularly with regard to upcoming polls to the Senate or upper house of parliament in March next year and the general election in 2013, the party insiders said.
“He will lead the manifesto and programme development for the party for the next general elections,” said one source.
In recent days, Bilawal has sat in on key meetings chaired by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani that discussed the President’s health and national security issues related to the November 26 cross-border NATO attack that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
“Bilawal is in Pakistan on the instructions of President Zardari as he wants to dispel an impression that he and his family have fled,” presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar told the Dawn.
Babar said Bilawal was formally named the PPP chairman after his mother Benazir Bhutto’s assassination but had not been performing his role because of his studies.
“Now he has completed his education and is getting engaged in different political activities,” he said.
The PPP had announced that Bilawal’s political career would be formally launched on August 7 last year in Birmingham but the event was subsequently cancelled after criticism that President Zardari was undertaking a visit to Britain at a time when the people of Sindh had been devastated by catastrophic floods.