#PPPJalsa #BhuttoIsBack: Bilawal Bhutto Zardari draws more than one Million crowd

By NATHAN HODGE And SYED SHOAIB HASAN
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KARACHI, Pakistan—The scion of the most prominent political dynasty in the country headlined a major rally here Saturday in a bid to strengthen his credentials and revive his party’s fortunes.
Despite his pedigree, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the 26-year-old son of assassinated Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and former President Asif Ali Zardari cast himself as a challenger to the status quo as he addressed the massive crowd, which police estimated grew during the afternoon to around 1 million.
“In Pakistan, there have been two real powers—one is Bhuttoism, and one is the worshipers of dictatorship,” he said. “I call them the supporters of the establishment,” he added, referring to the latter.
The rally went off peacefully despite threats from the Pakistani Taliban and others to target Mr. Bhutto Zardari personally.
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The organizers chose a symbolic place and date: adjacent to the National Mausoleum, the burial place of Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah, on the seventh anniversary of Ms. Bhutto’s return from exile.
The Oxford-educated Mr. Bhutto Zardari, who boasts half a million Twitter followers, is also the grandson of the founder of the Pakistan Peoples Party, former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
But analysts say Mr. Bhutto Zardari, who has spent much of his life outside of Pakistan, needs to establish his own bona fides and move beyond traditional dynastic politics if the PPP wants to reach out to the growing middle class and reinvigorate its appeal among its traditional rural constituency.
“Its very important for the PPP to actually come up with some sort of a manifesto that reflects its liberal traditions,” said Sohail Sangi, a lecturer in politics at Sindh University. “It’s no longer possible—even in rural Sindh—for the party to continue to get votes merely on the Bhutto name.”
The PPP, which lost power last year in an election that brought Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif into office, has the second-highest number of seats in parliament. But the political dynamic has shifted dramatically in recent weeks.
A series of demonstrations in Islamabad led by Imran Khan, the head of another opposition party, and Muslim cleric Tahir ul Qadri has weakened Mr. Sharif’s government.
The PPP has thus far been muted in its criticism of the government. but Mr. Bhutto Zardari may be able to capitalize on it.
Samina Ahmed, South Asia project director for the think tank International Crisis Group, said the massive rally was an occasion for the PPP to showcase a young leader.
“He is making the right moves–kissing babies and shaking hands,” she said. “That is what politicians need to do.”
Added Ms. Ahmed: “His real constraint is going to be security.”
Ms. Bhutto was killed by a suicide attacker in December 2007 following a campaign rally in the military garrison town of Rawalpindi. The government blamed the Pakistani Taliban, a group allied with al Qaeda.
Her historic return to Karachi just a couple months before that was also marred by tragedy: a suicide bombing that claimed the lives of at least 140 people.
Saturday’s rally in Karachi was held under tight security, after the Pakistani Taliban and their al Qaeda allies vowed to target it. A spokesman for the Taliban said teams of attackers were ready to carry out the mission, with a special bounty promised for killing Mr. Bhutto Zardari.
Source: WSJ

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