Five years after former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, her only son and anointed heir Bilawal Bhutto Zardari stepped out of his father, President Asif Ali Zadari's shadow on Thursday to address his first political rally in Garhi Khuda Baksh where the `Bhutto family mausoleum' stands.
Though Mr. Bhutto has spoken in public before, this is the first time that he has addressed such a mammoth gathering and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) had made a big show of using the fifth death anniversary of his mother as a launch pad of the 24-year-old.
Speaking in a style that brought back memories of his mother, Mr. Bhutto took on all the forces - the hidden hands - that have been conspiring to destabilize the PPP-led government from the day it took charge. Referring to earlier efforts to oust PPP governments and citing the Asghar Khan case which established the conspiracy to keep Benazir Bhutto out of power, he said: ``They have still not learnt their lesson and are continuing with their ways; sometimes with `Memogate' and sometimes by using institutions of the State against us.''
Mr. Bhutto - who has earlier spoken up for minority rights and Malala Yousafzai - sought to sound firm on terrorism and the rights of minorities. ``With Benazir Bhutto as my witness, I promise you that the PPP will never fear terrorists or bow to dictators,'' he reiterated in a bid to silence those critics who said he could afford to speak out on these issues from the safe confines of his room in Oxford University.
As Mr. Bhutto stepped up to address the gathering, his every action and word was put under the scanner on mass media and social media. In particular, his accent given that his Urdu has always been heavily accented. According to keen watchers of the Bhutto clan, his Urdu was better than that of his mother's in 1988. But there was no mistaking the Benazir Bhutto-like effort put in to animate the crowd with slogans including ``BB ke qaatil sharminda hai, BB aaj bhi zinda hai'' (BB's murderers have been shamed and humiliated, BB is still alive.)
Though the rally was billed as Mr. Bhutto's launch, close associates of the family insisted that there was no need to launch him. According to Mr. Zardari, his son had finished his learning phase and was now coming out to work with the people. Born in September 1988, he will not be eligible to contest the elections if they are held as scheduled in the first half of next year but increasingly Mr. Bhutto has been seen by his father's side not just in internal meetings of the PPP but also on Mr. Zardari's international visits.