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Benazir’s handwritten will out

February 06, 2008

NAUDERO: The Pakistan People’s Party made public on Tuesday the political will of Ms Benazir Bhutto in which she named her husband Asif Ali Zardari to succeed her, setting to rest speculations that she did not hand the party leadership to him, but had instead nominated their 19-year-old son Bilawal as her successor.

The will was released by PPP’s Central Information Secretary Sherry Rehman at a press conference here.

In the handwritten, one-page document dated Oct 16, 2007, two days before her return to the country from exile, Ms Bhutto urged supporters to keep up her struggle.

“I fear for the future of Pakistan. Please continue the fight against extremism, dictatorship, poverty and ignorance,” she wrote.

“I would like my husband Asif Ali Zardari to lead you in this interim period until you and he decide what is best. I say this because he is a man of courage and honour,” Ms Bhutto said.

The will said that Mr Zardari “spent 11.5 years in prison without bending despite torture. He has the political stature to keep our party united.”

Ms Rehman said: “Some enemies wanted to create chaos in the party by spreading false speculations about the contents of the will.”

“That is why the party high command has decided to share the will with the public and media to foil all such controversies and keep the party united.”

She said it was Ms Bhutto’s ‘political will’. Her ‘personal will’, dealing with her assets, was private, she said.

She avoided answering a question about the delay in releasing the will. She defended the decision of the party’s Central Executive Committee to nominate Mr Zardari as co-chairman, adding that the move was aimed at keeping the party united and foiling designs of its opponents.

Ms Rehman said the PPP would stick to its demand for a UN probe into Ms Bhutto’s assassination. She said recent visits of PPP delegations to the US had evoked a positive response.

About Mr Amin Fahim’s candidature for the premiership, Ms Rehman said the party’s CEC would take a decision about it later.

She said there was no mention in Ms Bhutto’s will about Mr Fahim’s candidature for the prime ministership.

She said the PPP would resume its election campaign on Feb 8 after the Chehlum of Ms Bhutto.

She said the party was participating in elections ‘under protest’ and talked about numerous complaints about pre-poll rigging.

In reply to a question, she said a book written by Ms Bhutto would be launched in Islamabad on Feb 12.

AGENCIES ADD: PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar said the will had been released to quash speculations about its contents.

He said questions were being asked why the will was not made public at the time of her funeral.

“Everybody now can see it. It’s her own writing and any doubt or misgivings about leadership of the party will be set aside,” Mr Babar said.

He said it was not a deliberate attempt to strengthen Mr Zardari’s position within the party.

“His credentials as party leader were already polished up” by Ms Bhutto’s endorsement in her will and by the party leadership in December, the PPP spokesman said.

He said the party would discuss who it might put forward to lead a new government only when the election results were in.