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Bilawal leaves Pakistan, not to lead campaign

Published Mar 26, 2013 04:51pm

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (L), son of assassinated former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, sits next to his father, Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari, during the fifth anniversary of his mother's death, at the Bhutto family mausoleum in Garhi Khuda Bakhsh, near Larkana December December 27, 2012.—Reuters/File Photo

ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will not be leading the party’s election campaign as party officials confirmed his departure for Dubai on Tuesday, days before the party launches its official campaign on April 4.

Speaking to Dawn.com, PPP leader Sharmila Farooqi confirmed that Bilawal had departed for Dubai. She also confirmed that the young Bhutto would not be ‘physically’ taking part in the party’s election campaign; however, she cited “security concerns” as the reason behind the decision.

The news comes as the Press Trust of India reported that the PPP chairman had left after an argument with his father, President Asif Ali Zardari.

Hasham Riaz, Bilawal’s chief of staff, while speaking to Dawn.com also confirmed that Bilawal had left for Dubai. However, he dismissed reports of a rift between the father and son as “rumors”.

According to the report by the Press Trust of India, the PPP chairman had a quarrel with President Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur over the party’s stance on several importance issues including militancy, sectarianism and the awarding of party tickets for the upcoming general elections.

The news agency reported sources as saying that Bilawal had an issue in particular with PPP’s weak reaction to the Malala Yousufzai shooting and the bomb attacks on the Shia community in Karachi and Quetta.

Bilawal was also angered by Talpur’s decision to not hand over party tickets to candidates in Sindh whom he favoured, a source told the Press Trust of India.

The departure of the PPP chairman raises concerns for the PPP, the main ruling party in Pakistan for the past five years, with polls looming overhead and the party set to kick-off its election campaign.

The PPP is to launch its election campaign on April 4 in Garhi Khuda Buksh.

Meanwhile, a source told Dawn.com that Bilawal, who turns 25 this September and will be of eligible age to contest elections by the time of the by-elections, has decided not to take part in even the by-polls.