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Bhutto's son vows defeat for jihadists in Pakistan

By Agencies in Karachi | China Daily | Updated: 2014-10-20 10:55

The son of slain former Pakistani premier Benazir Bhutto made his formal political debut in a massive rally on Saturday, vowing to resist extremism and stop the Islamic State group from gaining a foothold in the country.

Tens of thousands of people gathered to hear Bilawal Bhutto Zardari amid tight security measures in Karachi, Pakistan's largest city. Supporters sang and danced, waving the flag of Bhutto's main opposition Pakistan People's Party.

"The fountainhead of our power is the people," Bilawal said.

"If you want to save Pakistan, the only answer is Bhuttoism and the PPP."

In a speech that lasted around two hours, delivered in Urdu, the young leader condemned the homegrown Pakistani Taliban and other jihadi groups including Islamic State group, which controls large swaths of Iraq and Syria.

He expressed fears his country could breed its own extremists hellbent on sectarian war, telling the crowd: "One fine day another Osama bin Laden would emerge ... and some puppet would announce the opening of a Taliban office in Peshawar, which would ultimately become an Islamic State group office.

"Civil war would begin all across the country in the name of religion."

In typically confrontational style, he vowed to finish off extremists and continue the rule of his family dynasty in Pakistan.

"Enemies of Pakistan you would be defeated ... only Bhuttoism would prevail here," he said.

Bilawal blamed the country's current political crisis on "domestic and foreign forces" collaborating in a plot to push Pakistan into chaos, taking a swipe at his populist opponents.

"Foreign and domestic forces have been in collusion and they want to make Pakistan another Iraq and Syria," Bilawal said.

Bilawal vowed to carry on the legacy of his assassinated mother and revive the party, which shrank to its home province in the last elections.

"Bhuttoism is the name of jihad against extremism, poverty, and destitution," said the 26-year-old, who was schooled in Dubai and at Oxford University and has a marked accent when speaking in Urdu, as English is his first language.

The rally marked the seventh anniversary of the devastating bomb attack that hit Benazir Bhutto's homecoming parade in Karachi on October 18, 2007, killing 139 people in the deadliest single terror attack on Pakistani soil.

Bilawal arrived at the rally by helicopter and addressed the crowds from the same bullet and bombproof truck that his mother used for the ill-fated parade, which was meant to mark her triumphant return after nearly a decade of self-imposed exile.

She survived the bombing, but was assassinated in a gun and suicide attack in an election rally in Rawalpindi two months later.

"I start this journey for my people, for the martyrs, for my mother," Bilawal wrote on his Twitter page ahead of the rally. "Boarding the truck brought back some painful memories."

Analysts say the main purpose of Saturday's rally was to present Bilawal as the true political heir to his charismatic mother, who twice served as prime minister.

AFP - Reuters

 Bhutto's son vows defeat for jihadists in Pakistan

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, 26, head of main opposition Pakistan People's Party, waves to supporters at a rally in Karachi on Saturday. Tens of thousands of Pakistanis gathered to see the son of slain expremier Benazir Bhutto make his political debut.  Rizwan Tabassum / Agence France-Presse

(China Daily 10/20/2014 page11)

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