ISLAMABAD: Following in the footsteps of his grandfather Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Wednesday took oath as the foreign minister, formally joining the federal cabinet of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
President Dr Arif Alvi administered the oath to the PPP chairman at the presidency. On the occasion, the venue echoed with slogans of “Jiye Bhutto” as soon as Mr Bilawal was sworn in as Pakistan’s youngest foreign minister. PM Sharif, PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and Sanam Bhutto, the sister of slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, were also present at the swearing-in ceremony.
Interestingly, President Alvi, who had expressed his inability to administer the oath to the prime minister, later met Bilawal who paid a courtesy call to the president.
The PPP chief assumed charge of the first public office of his political career immediately after being sworn in, and took a briefing on the country’s foreign affairs. He also called on Prime Minister Sharif along with his father, former president Zardari, and expressed his gratitude for including him in the cabinet.
Thirty-three-year-old Bilawal was first elected to the National Assembly in 2018. This is the first time he will be serving as a member of a federal cabinet. Mr Bilawal is the 12th foreign minister of the country.
Three days after his mother’s assassination in December 2007, he had taken over the reins of the PPP. Despite being suddenly pushed to the top political echelons, he initially kept a low profile, focusing instead on finishing his history degree at Oxford University. He returned to Pakistan in 2010, and has since then taken on an increasingly active role as the PPP chairman.
Bilawal’s grandfather, former premier and PPP founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, had served as the foreign minister from 1963 to 1966. ZAB had also served as president of the country from 1971 to 1973 and as prime minister from 1973 to 1977.
In a tweet, Bilawal’s sister Bakhtawar Bhutto-Zardari congratulated him before he took oath.
“Today Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari will take oath as Pakistan’s foreign minister in this unity government -- decided by [the] PPP CEC (central executive committee) and we couldn’t be more proud of him! Already outshone in parliament and always stuck to his democratic values -- excited to witness this path if God wills,” she had tweeted.
Bilawal had hinted during a press conference on Tuesday that he would be allocated the portfolio and confirmed he would be sworn in as a federal minister the next day.
At the press conference, the young PPP chief had also explained his decision of joining PM Sharif’s cabinet, saying “one-sided decision making” was not possible and it was up to all the political parties to find solutions to the country’s problems collectively.
Earlier, the PPP had sought the foreign ministry for its chairman, who had declined and his party leader, MNA Hina Rabbani Khar, was made the minister of state for foreign affairs.
A couple of days ago, the PM had appointed Tariq Fatemi as his special assistant on foreign affairs, but the portfolio was later withdrawn.
Media reports had stated that Mr Bilawal, who was at that time visiting the UK where he also met PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif, will join the cabinet after his return.
Soon after assuming charge of his office, the newly inducted foreign minister went straight to the Chinese Embassy where he expressed condolences with the ambassador over the lives of three Chinese nationals lost in a suicide bombing in Karachi on Tuesday.
Bilawal vowed to further strengthen the bilateral relations with China, and stressed the culprits behind the terrorist attack will be punished soon.
Published in Dawn, April 28th, 2022