KARACHI: The Chief of the Pakistan People’s Party Bilawal Bhutto would not be present in Pakistan on Election Day. He has already left the country and would not be addressing any party rallies or meetings due to security threats to his life, his party sources told Dawn.com on Friday.

Central party leader Taj Haider also confirmed that consensus had been reached in the party and that, in the wake of serious threats to Bilawal’s life, the party has advised him not to lead the election campaign in person.

“We have already lost Benazir Bhutto and will not risk losing Bilawal. The threats to his life are very real,” he said.

Haider would not say where the party chief was at the moment. However, sources in the party said that he had left Pakistan earlier this week and would not be returning to the country before May 11, the Election Day.

The young scion of the influential Bhutto family and son of President Asif Ali Zardari, Bilawal said in a video message released April 23 that he would assist in the party’s election campaign but not lead it.

“I wanted to contest polls living amongst you; I wanted to launch the election campaign in the streets of my country alongside my workers…but we are at war against (a) mindset,” Bilawal told party workers in the video marking the launch of the PPP’s election campaign.

“The murderers of Quaid-e-Awam and Benazir Bhutto Shaheed now want to eliminate us as well.” Party leaders had earlier said the PPP chief would lead the campaign through a video link because of threats to his life.

Pakistan has witnessed a surge in violence targeted at election campaigns and rallies in the run-up to the May 11 polls.

On Friday, Taliban gunmen shot dead an ANP candidate in Karachi for NA-254 seat, Sadiq Zaman Khattak, along with his three-year-old son.

The outlawed Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militant group has announced it would target the PPP, Awami National Party (ANP) and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) due to their secular views.

- With reporting by Asif Mahmood in Karachi.

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