Political People: Bilawal Bhutto, 19-year-old son of Benazir Bhutto

President Pervez Musharraf’s government claims Benazir Bhutto was not killed by gunshots or shrapnel as originally claimed. Instead, they claimed her skull was shattered by the force of a suicide bomb blast that slammed her against a lever in her car’s sunroof.


It is now widely believed that an al-Qaida assassin was behind the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.


Hundreds of thousands mobbed her funeral as the army tried to calm the rioting elsewhere that left 27 dead in Pakistan.


The rioting by Bhutto’s furious supporters raised concerns that this nuclear-armed nation, in constant chaos and under the growing threat from Islamic terrorists even before the killing, was in danger of coming off the rails.


Time magazine reports that Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) have said the slain former prime minister’s 19-year-old son, Bilawal, will likely be named as her political heir and the new party leader on Sunday.


Bilawal, a student at Oxford, will be given a chance to read his mother’s last will and testament before any anouncements are made.


Time reports that a Pakistani television news channel also carried reports that Bilawal will be made the new leader, which the channel said accorded with Benazir Bhutto’s wishes.


If confirmed, the teenager will become the third leader of the 40-year-old center-left party, one of Pakistan’s most powerful.


Bilawal will follow the path of his grandfather, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who founded the PPP in 1967, led Pakistan as Prime Minister for four years in the mid 1970s and was hanged in 1979 by a military government, and his mother Benazir, who took over from her father and was killed in a shooting and suicide bomb attack two days ago.


Time reports that the party hopes to ride a wave of sympathy in parliamentary elections that are set for Jan. 8 but may yet be postponed in the face of widespread violence around the country.


Bilawal was born in September 1988.


After Benazir and her children went into self-imposed exile in the late 1990s, the family split their time between London and Dubai, where Bilawal reportedly attended the Rashid School for Boys, serving as vice president of the school’s student council.


Fall 2007 he enrolled at Oxford University in England where both his grandfather and his mother studied.


A 2004 profile of Bilawal in the respected Pakistani daily newspaper Dawn said the teenager liked target-shooting, swimming, horseback riding and squash, and regretted being away from Pakistan in part because it meant he played less cricket. His grandfather, he said, “was a very courageous man and I consider myself very lucky because I have three powerful role models that will obviously influence my career choices when I am older.”


Time notes other possible PPP runners include Benazir’s sister Sanam, or Fatima Bhutto, the daughter of Zulfikar Ali’s eldest son Murtaza. Fatima, however, had split with her aunt Benazir, whom she once described as “the most dangerous woman in Pakistan.”


A senior PPP official, who requested anonymity told Time that Bilawal will head the party, and that the party’s deputy leader and longtime Benazir loyalist, Mukhdoom Amin Fahim, is likely to become the prime minister, if the party wins a majority in parliament.


Last year Benazir told a reporter that she hoped her three children would choose a different career. “My children have told me they are very worried about my safety,” she said. “I understand those fears. But they are Bhuttos and we have to face the future with courage, whatever it brings.”

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