'Angry' Bilawal Refuses to Return to Pak on Benazir Death Anniversary

M Zulwernain/Lahore/Karachi
'Angry' Bilawal Refuses to Return to Pak on Benazir Death Anniversary

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari stayed away from Pakistan as his mother and former premier Benazir's death anniversary was observed today across the country, giving credence to reports that he is having serious differences with his father Asif Ali Zardari.

Although Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairman Zardari had gone to London to persuade his 'angry' son to return home so that he could attend the anniversary event in Garhi Khuda Bakhsh in Sindh province today but he did not succeed.

There has been no word from Bilawal about his skipping the anniversary. For the first time since Benazir Bhutto's assassination in 2007, her son preferred to stay out of the country on his mother's death anniversary.

Although the PPP has cited "security concerns" but Bilawal's absence has led to widespread speculation about his differences with his father over party affairs.

"Asif Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto had developed differences over the party's affairs. Bilawal appointed Jehangir Badar and Bashir Riaz as his political adviser and press secretary without consulting Zardari," a PPP leader said.

Although Zardari did not oppose the choice, he told his son that he would be given a free hand to run the party affairs only after he was fully groomed, the leader said.

Meanwhile, Zardari today brushed aside reports of differences with Bilawal or party president Makhdoom Amin Fahim while addressing a big pubic rally in Garhi Khuda Baksh.

"These are all rumours being spread by our competitors as they are afraid of our growing popularity. They are no differences within the party," he said.

Other party leaders also insisted Bilawal was absent because of health and security reasons.

Zardari mainly stuck to speaking on the establishment of military courts in the country to combat terrorism.

"The PPP understands the extraordinary security situation the country is facing but at no cost will allow these military courts set up to try terrorists to be misused," he said.

"We only accepted the establishment of these courts after being told they would not be used for victimisation of political workers," he added.

"We will support military courts when we are sure they will not be used against a democratic party, a journalist or an intellectual," he said.

Zardari while expressing anguish over the terrorist attack on the army school in Peshawar on December 16 in which 134 schoolchildren were killed said the full scale operation against terrorism should have been enforced back in 2007.

He said that former military dictator General Pervez Musharraf's regime did not do enough to combat terrorism in the country and did not react strongly even after major attacks by terrorists.

Zardari also made it clear the PPP did not see any differentiation of 'good' or 'bad' Taliban. "They are all terrorists killing innocent human beings," he said.

Senior PPP member and opposition leader in the National Assembly, Syed Khursheed Shah told reporters that the killers of Benazir Bhutto would also be tried in military courts.

He said that the decision of forming military courts was taken with a heavy heart.

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