Asif Ali Zardari to essay role of `Kingmaker' in PPP affairs

Asif Ali ZardariIslamabad, Jan. 1: Asif Ali Zardari, the husband of late benazir Bhutto, will essay the role of an effective kingmaker in the affairs of the Pakistan People's Party, party insiders feel.

This was apparent to all when within minutes of his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari being annointed chairman of the party, his father said: “He may be our chairman, but he is my son, and he is of a tender age.”

Nineteen-year-old Bilawal did not protest.

That Zardari is going to be the regent while his son learns the ropes is clear to one and all. Zardari, a former member of Parliament who served as a minister in his wife’s governments and who had been jailed on corruption charges, went on to dominate the news conference, speaking on the need for democracy in Pakistan and keeping the nation’s fragile federation together.

Longtime deputy leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party, Makhdoom Amin Fahim has predicted that Zardari would be the kingmaker — consolidating his hold on the party by creating his own clique of advisers — and that some of those close to Ms. Bhutto would fade away.

While Bilawal Bhutto Zardari brings the much-needed continuity and symbolism of the family name, according to the New York Times, it is his father who will be the critical figure over the next several years.

Critics, however, question Zardari’s ability to follow in his wife’s footsteps. There is a sizable anti-Zardari contingent in the party, several politicians have acknowledged. “In the past he was not the least interested in governance, but in deals,” said Talat Masood, a political analyst. “The party should not be allowed to split,” he warned.

In Washington, Pakistan experts expressed mild puzzlement at the selection of Bilawal as party chairman.

The choice may indeed prove a clever move by Zardari to keep the party loyal to the memory of Benazir Bhutto and her father, the founder of the party, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

On Sunday night, Zardari explained his decision to make his son the party chairman. “In this country, symbols matter,” he said.

Mr. Bhutto Zardari has his mother’s good looks, and a quiet steadiness, those close to the family say. “He is very intelligent and very dedicated,” said Farooq Naik, a senator and lawyer to the family. “He would not talk a lot, but would absorb things and then talk,” he said.

Benazir Bhutto was clearly grooming her son for a political career at some point. (ANI)

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