Bilawal Bhutto Zardari faces tough challenges
Family charisma could help assassinated prime minister's party in next election, analysts say
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari's entry into Pakistan's political arena continues south Asia's tradition of dynastic politics, but analysts say he faces tough challenges to turn his famous name into palpable success.
His mother, Benazir Bhutto, and maternal grandfather, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, were both prime ministers, and in his first major public speech on Thursday Bilawal painted himself as the true heir to the dynasty that has dominated Pakistani democracy for more than 40 years.
"Bhutto is an emotion, a love," he told 200,000 supporters at the family mausoleum in the southern province of Sindh as he marked the fifth anniversary of his mother's assassination and launched his own political career. "Every challenge is soaked in blood, but you will be the loser," he said in a message to what he called anti-democratic forces. "However many Bhuttos you kill, more Bhuttos will emerge from every house."
Zulfikar, who led Pakistan from 1971 until he was deposed in a coup in 1977, was hanged in 1979 over the murder of a political opponent.
Benazir was killed in a gun and suicide attack after an election rally in 2007.
For the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), founded by Zulfikar and now at the head of the ruling coalition, the dead Bhuttos are martyrs. The party's rhetoric makes much of their struggle to bring democracy in the face of an entrenched and oppressive "establishment".
A general election is expected in the spring and after almost five years of PPP-led government, ordinary Pakistanis face a host of miseries on a daily basis: gas shortages, incessant power cuts, inflation, pervasive corruption and the ever-present threat of terror attacks.
The Oxford-educated Bilawal is free from the taint of corruption that dogged both his mother and his father, President Asif Ali Zardari.
Analysts say the PPP will aim to capitalise on his freshness and energy - as well as the Bhutto name - as they seek to persuade voters to give the party another chance.
At 24, he will be too young to stand if the poll goes ahead on time, but he has been tipped to spearhead the PPP's campaign. Neutrality rules bar the head of state, Zardari, from playing a role.
Raza Rumi of the Jinnah Institute think tank said the young Bhutto could prove useful in more than just name.
"I think the PPP will have to keep him at centre stage - partly it needs a charismatic leader at the front, but also remember that in Pakistan the majority of the population is young," Rumi said.
Several local newspapers noted similarities in looks between Bilawal and his mother, though the passion and emotion of his speech seemed to cast further back to the fiery demagoguery for which his grandfather was famed.
Political analyst and author Hasan Askari said Bilawal would play the Bhutto card for all it was worth, but warned it would take more than clever speeches to win the public over.
"The speech was emotionally charged. This style works in the crowd," Askari said.
"He repeated the 'roti, kapra aur makan' (food, clothing and shelter) slogan which his grandfather gave in 1970. He invoked the legacy, but gave no idea or vision."