Pakistan on Tuesday was abuzz with rumours of a falling out between President Asif Ali Zardari and his son, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, as the latter had left the country in the middle of election season.
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), however, insisted that its patron-in-chief had left for Dubai in view of security considerations and would address election campaigns through video conferencing.
In a related development, the Election Commission of Pakistan registered the PPP in the name of Mr. Bhutto-Zardari while rejecting two applications staking claim to the name. One applicant was Ghinwa Bhutto, widow of Mr. Bhutto-Zardari’s maternal uncle Murtaza Bhutto, and the other was his mother Benazir Bhutto’s close aide Naheed Khan.
For a week now, there has been considerable speculation about the absence of Mr. Bhutto-Zardari when elections are less than two months away. Last weekend, The Friday Times (TFT) had a snippet about him leaving Pakistan “in a huff”.
According to TFT, the heir to the Bhutto legacy was not only “critical of the management of the party by his father and aunt [Faryal Talpur]” but also felt “governance could have been a whole lot better”. Further, the report claimed the 24-year-old told a close associate that he would not be able to vote for the PPP in the coming elections.
While the PPP denied there was any falling out, there was no word from Mr. Bhutto-Zardari till late in the evening. Both his sisters, Bakhtawar and Aseefa sought to set the record straight through tweets. “There is no truth to rumours of differences b/w [between] Bilawal Bhutto Zardari & President Asif Ali Zardari. This is a pathetic attempt at propaganda,” Ms. Aseefa tweeted while the older sister added that “Bilawal will be part of the election campaign but will not be leading it”.
Security, a concern
Security of the family has always been a concern and there is apparently fresh intelligence of a heightened threat to him. Besides, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan has already warned people to stay away from election rallies hosted by the PPP, the Awami National Party and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).
If Mr. Bhutto-Zardari — who was anointed heir to the PPP by his mother — chooses to address the party’s election rallies over phone or through video-conferencing, he will not be the first to do so. MQM’s leader Altaf Hussain has been doing so regularly for years from London.