Bilawal: We must dedicate our lives to democracy in Pakistan

The following is a transcript of the speech delivered by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari at the Central Executive Committee PPP meeting on the occasion of the death anniversary of his grandfather, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Accuracy of the transcript has been confirmed.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and President Asif Ali Zardari visit ancestral graveyard of the Bhutto family

Bismillah Rehman Raheem
Assalaam alaykum

We gather yet again to mark the martyrdom of our great leader Quaid-i-Awam Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

My mother Shaheed Benazir Bhutto taught us that democracy was the greatest revenge. The day she took oath as the first female prime minister of Pakistan was the day she took her revenge.

When she too was martyred I fought against my natural instincts as a son who’s mother was assassinated. My heart, my entire being pulsed with rage demanding violent vengeance.

Revenge against the dictatorial regime that purposely sabotaged the security arrangements, provided purposely inadequate resources, purposely flawed equipments,  purposely designed to leave her vulnerable.

All the while having the complete knowledge, supported by unquestionable evidence that the extremists lay in wait at that exact spot ready to attack.

I believe my mother’s spirit and her teachings cooled the tempers of a hot headed 19yr old. Allowing me to convince a party ready for all out civil-war and a traumatized nation that democracy is the best revenge.

This remains our mantra. Be it the judicial murder of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto or the forces of extremism and dictatorship that assassinated his daughter: Democracy is and always will be the best revenge.

We know our great martyrs lives will not be avenged if any insignificant man alone is held responsible. For us to have our revenge we must insure that the circumstances that allowed for Shaheed Bhutto’s Judicial murder never arise again. For us to take revenge of Shaheed BB’s assassination we must defeat the forces of violent extremism and dictatorship that together assassinated my mother. To do this we must dedicate our lives to the establishment of a fully functioning democracy in Pakistan.

However, democracy is not our only revenge. There is a matter of Justice. The rule of law must be allowed to take its course. This after all is also an important component of democracy. It is our responsibility to history to ensure the full and complete facts – the truth – of these crimes are known to the world.

Thus, I fully support the party’s decision to revisit the case of the Judicial murder of Shaheed Bhutto. It is not just a question of law, it is also a question for history. It is right for us to finally set the record straight and ensure that such an autocracy never ever again takes place in our nations courts.

On my mothers assassination the circumstances are far more complicated. As her son and heir I am the only person to have received a complete briefing of the investigation into her assassination. I would like to thank our  investigation team. In taking on this responsibility they have risked their lives.  They have worked tirelessly for 3 years to come to the truth.

I would also like to thank the United Nations. They honored my mother by passing a resolution condemning her assassination. They also obeyed the wishes of the people of Pakistan, who demanded through unanimous resolutions passed by all 4 provincial assemblies, our national assembly and the senate, that the United Nations investigate her assassination.  There detailed and invaluable report is of the utmost importance to history. It did the best it could in the confines of the parameters set. Both reports combined lead us towards the answers we seek.

Our national report identifies the individuals involved in the criminal act its self. It also follows the trail they left behind in an attempt to expose the financiers, orchestrators and co-conspirators involved. Everyone directly involved, who could be arrested and are still alive have been taken into custody.

The report also raises many questions. Having read everything it is easy to conclude that this was a grand conspiracy. A conspiracy to rid the world of its best weapon to combat international violent extremism. A conspiracy to rob Pakistan of its best hope to establish a fully functional democracy.

We must therefore proceed with caution. The premature release of the entire investigation report could legally sabotage the case currently in progress. It could also allow the conspirators – who may not be confined to our borders – to permanently deprive the people of Pakistan and the citizens of the world of the truth they deserve.

Therefore I advise the members of the CEC to appoint a limited number of its most senior members to have a full and complete briefing of the entire investigation report.

Given the complexities of this conspiracy this committee of senior members can advise us on how to proceed with the publication of the report. It will decide what information can responsibly be released to satisfy the desire of our supporters for information. While also ensuring we do not hamper the legal proceedings already in progress in our national courts. We cannot allow those that conspired to rid the world of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto to sabotage our desire for justice and our search for the truth.

I would like to conclude by saluting our martyrs all of whom deserve justice for their sacrifice. I salute our martyred founder who choose the gallows but refused to be silenced by tyranny. I salute his martyred daughter who refused to be silenced by fear. I also salute our party’s newest martyrs who have joined their leaders in the afterlife. I salute our martyred minorities minister – Pakistan’s modern day equivalent to Martin Luther King.  I salute our martyred Governor – the real lion of Punjab. I salute all the martyrs of the PPP who have given their lives for our party, our country and our democracy.

Jiay Bhutto.


What India’s Varun Gandhi can teach Pakistan’s Fatima Bhutto?

Fatima Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto’s estranged niece, has been writing articles and running a constant campaign against her uncle, President Asif Ali Zardari. Her articles have become more bitter with time. She and her stepmother Ghenwa Bhutto have campaigned against Shaheed Benazir Bhutto and her widower without much political gain. They could learn something from the estranged members of the Nehru-Gandhi family in India.

Maneka Gandhi, the widow of Sanjay Gandhi, brother of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, has been hostile to the more politically successful branch of the family for years. Now her son Varun Gandhi has entered politics on the side of his family party’s rival, the BJP. But while Maneka and Varun have found political success for themselves they have not wasted their time and energy on just trying to pull down the Rajiv Gandhi branch of the family –unlike Ghenwa and Fatima.

Maneka served as a Member of Parliament and even became a minister. Now her son Varun has become an MP for the BJP. When Varun showed up for the swearing-in of parliamentarians, he was courteous to his aunt Sonia Gandhi and was extremely civil with his cousin Rahul, who might some day become Prime Minister like his father Rajiv, his grandmother Indira and his great-grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru.

Now, why can’t our Fatima Bhutto follow Varun’s example and enter politics effectively while being civil to her uncle and his family? Instead of just being a spoiler for the Benazir Bhutto family, she could then make some contribution even if it means joining the Pakistan Muslim League that her grandfather Zulfikar Ali Bhutto broke away from to form the more successful social-democratic Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

Here’s the Times of India article, Family Feud Melts for a Bit as Varun, Rahul greet their aunts:

New Delhi (PTI): They may be on opposite sides of the political divide but that did not come in the way of exchanging basic courtsey—exchanging greetings and smile.

BJP MP from Pilibhit Varun Gandhi greeted his aunt and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi with folded hands before taking oath as Lok Sabha member while his cousin and Congress MP from Amethi Rahul Gandhi greeted his aunt Maneka Gandhi on Tuesday.

While the Congress president was visibly happy watching Varun read out his oath in Hindi, Maneka had a broad smile when Rahul took oath in English.

Maneka also thumped the desk as Rahul was sworn in as a member.

Varun became a member for the first time after he won the Pilibhit seat, represented by his mother Maneka earlier, in the elections last month.

As Feroze Varun Gandhi, the name by which he was called to take oath, came forward, he did a ‘namaste’ to his aunt who was seated in the front row of the treasury benches.

Priyanka Gandhi, who was in the Speaker’s Gallery along with husband Robert Vadra, was also seen smiling as the member from Pilibhit took oath.

Rahul also greeted Leader of the Opposition L K Advani and other BJP leaders and extended the same gesture to Maneka, who was seated in the second row of opposition benches, from a distance.

Priyanka and Robert Vadra left the gallery after Varun and Rahul took oath.

The Pakistani State, Dominated by Military & Intelligence Services, Bear Ultimate Responsibility for Benazir Bhutto’s Murder

Benazir Bhutto is dead, martyred by a hired assassin’s bullets in the cause of the struggle for the rights of the people and in challenging the hegemony of a coterie of vested interests that is feeding itself off the sweat and blood of the people.

State minions have blamed the attack on Baitullah Mehsud, the Taliban Amir in Pakistan, a charge that has been duly denied. Clearly, one side is lying and, under the circumstances, the Musharraf regime’s spokesmen do not command any more credibility than Baitullah Mehsud’s spokesmen.

However, it cannot be disputed that it is the duty of the state to protect every citizen. And the state failed to protect a citizen who a vast multitude of people regarded as their leader and saviour and who was under threat — by official accounts as well. To this extent, at the very least, the Musharraf regime is responsible and liable. However, the direct responsibility of state functionaries cannot be ruled out altogether. The pattern of attempts at concealment, diversion, contradictions and concoction in the official responses to the October carnage at Karsaz in Karachi and the subsequent murderous attack at Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi constitute disturbing pointers.

One clear case of concoction is perhaps discernable, namely the transcript of the ‘conversation’ between Baitullah Mehsud and his ‘maulvi’ field commander. Technology exists to trace calls to its location within seconds. Israel routinely uses such technology to locate Hamas freedom fighters and surgically target the particular vehicle, even while it is moving. It appears that the Pakistan military possesses this technology, as shown by its ability to pick up the ‘conversation.’ That they were not able or willing to locate either the ‘maulvi’ or Baitullah Mehsud during their alleged minute-long conversation smacks of incompetence or connivance.

Incompetence and/or connivance has now emerged as a hallmark of the Musharraf regime in different areas of policy. Most recent is the case of Mullah Fazlullah in Swat. Media reports of the operation of an illegal radio station by the mullah had been appearing for more than a year. No attempt was made to jam the broadcasts, although the technology to jam radio signals — used even during the Second World War — was available to Pakistani authorities. Possession of this technology is now proved, given that such radio signals have been jammed since the launch of the military operation in Swat. The question arises: is the Swat episode indicative of incompetence or connivance?

Earlier, Pakistani forces battled militants entrenched in the Lal Masjid/Masjid-i-Hafsa complex, suffering several casualties and causing between several score to several hundred deaths among the students. The Lal Masjid episode too simmered for more than a year before coming to a head. The question that arose then, and which no state functionary has cared to answer to date, is: how is it that the Ghazi brothers were able to amass sophisticated weaponry in the heart of Islamabad — a city where it is said that the number of intelligence operatives outnumber the total number of janitors, gardeners and taxi drivers combined? Once again, the question arises: is the bloody Lal Masjid episode indicative of incompetence or connivance?

Earlier still emerged the affair relating to Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan’s clandestine international operations in smuggling contraband nuclear equipment and material. The exposure of his illicit activities was made not by Pakistani authorities but by the United States. The official Pakistan explanation was that he was alone in running the smuggling ring and that Pakistani officials were neither involved nor aware.

Dr Qadeer Khan was a high-value national asset, protected by more than one high-powered security agency. Those who have experienced even one day of police escort know that the facility is double-edged. While the escort ostensibly provides protection, it also deprives the protected individual of a degree of privacy. That the nuclear scientist was able to carry out an international operation involving highly sensitive material — and allegedly use Pakistan Air Force C-130 planes to freight his wares around the world — without drawing the attention of his ‘escorts’ is inconceivable. Once again the question arises: is the Qadeer Khan episode suggestive of incompetence or connivance?

The issue of both, incompetence and connivance, is of critical importance. If incompetence is attributed to the above three cases — and they are by no means exhaustive — the implication is that the country has crossed the threshold of what defines a failed state. The government is unable to enforce its writ; it is unable to control illegal broadcasting stations; it is unable to stop the accumulation of weaponry at any location; it is unable to control individuals engaged in smuggling of dangerous materials; it is unable to protect the life and property of the citizens. By inference it should be considered unable to carry out the assigned task of assisting the United States in its war against terror.

Attribution of connivance is more worrisome. If the events of Swat, Lal Masjid and nuclear smuggling have been allowed to simmer or continue with the connivance of state functionaries, the implication is that there is a coterie of powerful individuals within the corridors of power who consider themselves above the law — national or international — and unaccountable to any principle or institution save their own definition of interests.

The demand for an international investigation into Benazir Bhutto’s assassination needs to be viewed in this context. It would be irresponsible to suggest that extra-legal operations are carried out under formal governmental auspices. However, the repeated and prolonged suspension of constitutional processes and the rule of law have created extra-constitutional and extra-legal power centers. These shadowy centers, embedded within and around the state apparatuses, have spawned a wide network of criminal and terrorist cells. This is an extremely dangerous situation. If the state allows itself to be manipulated outside the bounds of law, the implication is that it has allowed itself to be criminalized. If such a state closes its eyes to some of its functionaries — or those outside but close to power centers — collaborating with international or local smugglers, criminals, militants or terrorists, it can be suspected that this collaboration will at some future date extend to a wider range of criminal and terrorist activities in the country and abroad. The dangers inherent for civilized society in Pakistan and for the world community at large need to be recognised.

Clearly, substantive remedial measures are called for. If the murder of Benazir Bhutto is attributable to incompetence, there emerges an urgent imperative for correcting the failed state syndromes. If it is attributable to connivance, the corridors of power need to be cleaned up. In particular, the cobwebs shrouding sinister Ziaist forces in secret cells have to be cleared and the extra-constitutional and extra-legal power centers dismantled.

Full restoration of the rule of law is in the interest of the political community and civil society in Pakistan if other political or civic leaders are not to be subjected to the threat of elimination. It is in the interest of the international community to help the people of Pakistan restore the rule of law if Pakistan is not to become the focal point for lawlessness, criminality and terrorism worldwide.

With the Symbol of the Federation Dead, Sindh is Angry and Punjab is Not Helping

By Shaheen Sehbai

Deeply aggrieved, full of anger and passionately in mourning, Sindhis are baffled and confused at the strange reaction in Punjab, specially the ruling elite which has adopted an aggressively parochial attitude, not just against the PPP but against entire Sindh, after the death of Benazir Bhutto.

The accusations that large numbers of Punjabis have been forced to flee Sindh and become refugees in their province may help the PML-Q leaders rebuild their shattered election campaign but it is certainly not helping national unity and the cause of the federation of Pakistan.

A quick tour of the heart broken hinterland of Sindh, starting from Karachi to Jamshoro, Sehwan Sharif, Dadu, Larkana, Naudero, Garhi Khuda Bux, Sukkur, Khairpur, Nowshero Feroze, Moro, Hala, Hyderabad and back to Karachi by road, revealed many facets of the Bhutto murder fallout which cannot be imagined while sitting in cozy drawing rooms before TV sets.

It was quite baffling to note that while we were driving towards Larkana on the Jamshoro-Sehwan route, not one burnt vehicle was seen anywhere from near Karachi until we entered the constituency of Benazir Bhutto in Larkana, over 250 miles away, where we saw a skeleton of a bus. Neither could we see any burnt banks or buildings on this route.

But strikingly on our way back from Sukkur to Hyderabad, the damage was evident but not as widespread as was being reported or projected to be. Some 100 trucks, buses and very small number of cars were still presenting the scene of a battlefield, especially in Moro and some other portions of the National Highway. A few banks on the main road were also visibly damaged.

But the interesting explanation we got by talking to residents and locals was that most of the damage all along the National Highway was in areas and constituencies which were not PPP strongholds and were either represented by Muslim Leagues or other breakaway PPP factions like the Jatois and others. Many gas and petrol stations were still totally undamaged while just in front of them, on the road, cars and buses had been burnt. The protestors were either not interested in burning some property or were cleverly selective in picking their targets.

At one point in front of a huge CNG station, which was intact, several vehicles were burnt but right across the road was a Rangers headquarter and no one seemed to have noticed the violence or done anything to stop it. When we crossed it the Rangers were being guarded by a police picket and van, odd as it may seem.

So when the majority PPP dominated areas were relatively quiet, how would the violence in non-PPP areas be explained. The PPP leadership, rank and file have a ready made explanation that the reaction was orchestrated to blame Sindh and PPP and it was exaggerated to suit the establishment to counter the wave of sympathy for the PPP. It looks somewhat obvious that such an explanation would be given by the PPP but the sudden regression of the pro-establishment section of the Punjab leadership into a parochial mode has lent a lot of credence to the Sindhis’ complaints.

Talking to the deeply disturbed and extremely nervous PPP leadership in Larkana, Naudero and Garhi Khuda Bux, the clear impression that emerges is not good news for the federation. Mr Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto made extra efforts in their early appearances before the media to send the message across that the PPP still wanted the federation, as it did when Benazir Bhutto was alive. But this message has been distorted by Punjab.

The creation of a refugee centre in the heart of Lahore was almost hitting the federation below the belt. Some of the Punjabi small businessmen, roadside gas station owners and hotel stops whom we met on our journey were highly critical of this Punjab move. One of them near Hala said he was always a PML voter but would now vote for the PPP as Punjabi leadership, especially close to the establishment, was unfair. He was safe and doing his business without any fear though he admitted that for four days after the Bhutto murder, he did not come out of the house or open his business. His hotel and shops had not been touched by anyone during the riots.

A PPP student wing leader in Larkana was specifically moved by the huge ads in newspapers from the PML which isolated Sindhis and spoke of large-scale migration from Sindh. “What do they want now that they have killed so many of our leaders? Do they want to push us into the sea. This is all rubbish and meant to fan hatred against Sindh for political gains,” he reacted.

The PPP leadership is having a bad time in the sense that they have been pushed to the wall and now fears they have to take on the establishment which they fear would be a disaster for the country.

Senior leaders candidly admit that the death of Benazir Bhutto has landed the party into a crisis but unity in the ranks and swift transition of power from Benazir to Asif Zardari has helped the party leaders and cadres focus on the real issue of winning the elections, helped by the sympathy wave.

One leader said it was challenging for Mr Zardari to get into the shoes of Ms Bhutto but since she had passed on the leadership to him in her will, the party had accepted the decision and quickly converted the street protests and violence into a determined electoral mission to win the elections.

But February 18 was the cut off date for all practical purposes and it was impossible for any PPP leader, including Mr Zardari, to show any soft corner for President Pervez Musharraf or the establishment before the elections.

“We have to decide that if Feb 18 turns out to be a fraud with us and the nation, what we have to do and this is not an easy decision but this decision cannot be put off any more,” said one leader. “And this time President Musharraf will have to accept all our demands without any precondition or bargaining because we have already paid the highest price that could be asked in any bargain.”

Senior PPP leaders do not believe that the establishment would go for the elections even on Feb 18, if the PPP wave continues, which it will. “They are not prepared to hand over power through the ballot box and unless they are in a position to either manipulate the result and contain the PPP or strike a deal on their terms, they would not agree to a poll,” one leader said. “But the PPP is not in a position to offer anything now. If Mr Musharraf wants a deal with the PPP, he will first have to hold a free and fair election without asking for anything in return. This risk he has to take, or otherwise take much bigger risks.”

This PPP sentiment is reflected at all levels of the leadership which is now gearing up to accept the coming challenges. Whatever doubts and suspicions people may have about Mr Zardari, he has now been catapulted into a position where he has very little room for maneuver or go against the general party sentiment. People want revenge and he has to lead the party into getting one.

“The PPP candidates have been decided by Benazir so those cannot be changed. The PPP leadership all over the country is in place so no particular Zardari men can be inducted. The election is just around and no one can risk intra-party infighting. The mourning has been successfully converted into a fury to take revenge at the ballot boxes so the party has been saved from disarray,” according to a senior leader.

This transition from protests and fury on the streets to revenge through democracy has been remarkably smooth. As we drove hundreds of miles in PPP and non-PPP territory, life had come to almost normal and only the remnants of the burnt out trucks, especially NLC containers and car-carriers, reminded us of the angry reaction. The first hurdle has successfully been crossed by the PPP, headed by Mr Zardari to control the people and turn them into highly motivated and committed workers.

The Future of the PPP — and Pakistan — is in the Hands of Asif Zardari

He is no one’s idea of a Bhutto—not as polished, not as charismatic, not as eloquent as his late wife or her father.

But somehow, Asif Ali Zardari, dogged by rumors of corruption but not the Bhutto name, the family legacy but not popular legitimacy, has to rally the supporters of his late wife, Benazir Bhutto, and lead the most popular political party in Pakistan. If not, the party could crumble.

“She leaves that to me in her will,” said Zardari, 53, who insists he will be buried next to his wife, who was killed after a campaign rally in a bomb and gun attack Dec. 27. “It is my job now to go out and fight these fundamentalist forces that are threatening our country.”

The future of the Pakistan People’s Party will help determine the future of Pakistan, which has struggled in the past year with a growing Islamic insurgency along its border with Afghanistan, a demoralized army and a political crisis that threatens to bring down President Pervez Musharraf, a key U.S. ally in the war on terror.

Because of widespread discontent with Musharraf and sympathy for the party after the death of Bhutto, many expect People’s Party candidates to sweep parliamentary elections Feb. 18—if the elections are fair.

If the center-left People’s Party and other opposition parties gain enough votes, they could band together to oust Musharraf, who has become extremely unpopular in recent months. This would have dramatic repercussions in Pakistan, the only Islamic nation known to have nuclear weapons, and ultimately could lead to more instability and new leaders who might not be as receptive to American wishes as Musharraf, who gained power while army chief after a bloodless coup in 1999.

But Bhutto’s death also leaves her party without a leader who has a national following. If supporters desert the People’s Party, its base could be reduced to Bhutto and Zardari’s home of Sindh province, turning it from a national to a regional political power—something that would simplify Musharraf’s efforts to cling to power.

In an 80-minute interview last week, Zardari insisted he would be able to keep the Pakistan People’s Party together with the help of other party leaders and his 19-year-old son, Bilawal, the ceremonial head of the party, now a student at Oxford University.

Zardari said Bhutto was his soul mate, although some of Bhutto’s friends say the marriage had become one of political convenience.

He got tears in his eyes while talking about his wife. He still carries her BlackBerry with him in his pocket because he doesn’t want to admit she’s gone, he said, and he sends messages to party leaders from the BlackBerry.

His first message: “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, not a candidate in the parliamentary elections, refused to say whom the party would nominate to be prime minister if it wins the most seats, saying it would decide after the results.

He also refused to say whether his party would be willing to work with Musharraf, although he referred to the largest pro-government political party as “the killer league” in the days after her death, and many people hold the government at least partly responsible. Zardari said party members—including the rank and file—would decide about working with Musharraf after the election.

But Zardari also said he still believes a government conspiracy was behind her death, which the government and the CIA blame on militants linked to Al Qaeda, and he called again for an independent UN investigation. Zardari said he hadn’t met with Musharraf nor any emissary in recent weeks, despite rumors of negotiations, and left little doubt about how he feels about the president.

“He will be remembered as one of the worst-ever leaders of Pakistan,” Zardari said.

Many supporters worry that Zardari and Musharraf might sign a deal, though, especially considering that Bhutto had negotiated a deal last year with Musharraf despite her party’s historic stance against military rule. Some party leaders said privately they would leave the party if Zardari signed up with Musharraf. Others said there was no way the People’s Party and Musharraf could work together at this point.

“No way am I prepared to compromise with Musharraf,” said Nawab Yusuf Talpur, a member of the party’s central executive committee.

In many ways, Zardari is an unlikely choice to lead the Pakistan People’s Party. 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 some Bhutto allies say Zardari tainted her reputation with questionable business dealings.

Zardari 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.

“Mr. Zardari has been the target of rumor and innuendo for two decades,” said Farahnaz Ispahani, a spokeswoman for the party. “None of these cases have been proved to this day.”

But several party loyalists close to Bhutto said Zardari traded on his influence with Bhutto and worked through partners, charging people commissions of 10 to 20 percent for government business, or even refusing to pay for small items such as meals. Throughout the country, he was known as “Mr. 10 Percent.”

Outside Pakistan, a property case in Britain and a money laundering case in Switzerland continue to raise questions about why the couple moved money overseas through networks of secretive offshore companies and trusts and where the money came from.

Yet 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. Party supporters have known only a Bhutto, either Benazir or her father or mother, in the 40 years of the party’s history. They were willing to die for her, wore T-shirts saying they would die to protect her, and when she returned on Oct. 18 from eight years of exile, many did, in a suicide blast that killed about 140 people.

As leaders debated who would lead the party three days after Bhutto’s death, mourners outside shouted for Sanam Bhutto, Bhutto’s sister, who has stayed out of politics. Others said they wanted another Bhutto—the daughter or son of Bhutto’s dead brother. Some said it was a ploy to rename Bhutto’s children as Bhuttos to take advantage of the family name. Just as he was named the party’s ceremonial head, Bilawal Zardari was renamed Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.

In Lyari, a slum in Karachi where gangs, drugs and guns hold sway, the red, green and black flags of the People’s Party hang from most street lights and storefronts. This neighborhood has always been a stronghold of Bhutto—where people remember shaking her hand, where relatives died protecting her in October. Some here don’t feel the same about Zardari.

“We’re not hopeful,” said Abdul Latif, 43, a People’s Party worker whose cousin was killed in that blast. “We don’t have confidence in him. We don’t think he can lead. No one is willing to die for him.”

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. It also could split because of the nature of the party, which somehow has united the disparate groups of feudal landlords, moderate middle-class reformers who dislike dynastic politics, and poor people, largely through the charisma of the Bhutto family and the reformist legacy of the party.

Zardari said he would 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.”

This article appeared in The Chicago Tribune