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Bilawal gets PPP reins
Party will contest poll: Asif Zardari
Afzal Khan writes from Islamabad

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, son of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has been named the chairman of the Pakistan Peopleís Party (PPP) while his father Asif Zardari will be the party co-chairman, it was announced after a meeting of the Central Committee of the party in Nau Dero (Sindh) today.

Zardari will run the affairs of the party together with vice-chairman Makhdoom Amin Fahim while 19-year old Bilawal completes his studies in Oxford, the alma mater of his mother and grandfather Z.A. Bhutto.

PPP vice-chairman, Makhdoom Amin Fahim told mediapersons that in her will Benazir had wanted Asif Zardari to succeed her and lead the party. However, Zardari insisted that Bilawal should be elected as chairman. The committee also decided to rechristen Bilawal as Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.

The committee also decided to take part in elections. Asif Zardari, while speaking on the occasion, thanked former premier Nawaz Sharif for announcing immediately after the assassination of Benazir that his party would boycott the polls as a mark of solidarity with the PPP. Zardari, however, appealed to Sharif to review his decision and participate in the elections.

Zardari also rejected governmentís announcement on police and judicial probe into Benazir's assassination and called for international investigations on the pattern of former Lebanese premier Hariri. He also referred to Benazir's e-mail to CNN in which she had said President Musharraf would be responsible if she is killed.

Zardari said the PPP would avenge Benazir's murder by winning the elections and restoring democracy in the country.

He also urged the people to stay calm and work for the success of the party in the elections. He denounced attempts to foment Sindhi sentiments against Punjab. He noted that all of Benazirís guards were Punjabis and had been killed during the blast in Rawalpindi.

The PPP CEC meeting that was presided over by Makhdoom Fahim, endorsed the will of Benazir Bhutto.

The party decided to contest the coming elections with her long-time loyalist and deputy Makhdoom Amin Fahim as its prime ministerial candidate.

Fahim led the party in her absence from 1999 to October 2007.

A Benazir loyalist, Amin Fahim is the quintessential party man, who never wavered in his loyalties towards his leader in all these years. He was in the same vehicle as Benazir at the time of her assassination. PPP information secretary Sherry Rehman said Bilawal is keen to continue his studies but will travel frequently to Pakistan to gain experience in running party affairs.

Bilawal Zardari, born on 21 September 1988, is set to study political science at Oxford University. He graduated from Rashid School for Boys in Dubai. He successfully gained 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. Physical fitness is important to Bilawal Zardari and he is already a black belt in Taekwondo.

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