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Benazir Bhutto's son takes up the family trade in Pakistan (+video)

The son of Pakistan's slain former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, launched his political career Thursday, vowing to continue his mother's fight for democracy.

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In India, members of the Gandhi/Nehru dynasty have led the Congress Party and the country as prime ministers for decades. Sheikh Hasina, the twice-elected prime minister of Bangladesh, is the daughter of the country’s founder, and her leading rival Khaleda Zia is the widow of a former president. The other leading political party in Pakistan, the Pakistan Muslim League, features a number of members of the Sharif family in prominent positions, and many major politicians in Pakistan have a similarly strong lineage.

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Mr. Almeida points out that in the case of Sindh Province, where the Pakistan Peoples Party has long held sway, there is a “cult of personality and a client-patron relationship in politics,” and Bilawal leading the party was a “a connection to the original person who energized political support.” In some way, he says, the parties are just trying to capture that original energy the name still garners to affect political change.

In his speech, Bhutto Zardari did mention his bloodline, but also reaffirmed the party’s vision, including providing basic needs to every citizen and opposition to terrorist groups. He recalled the assassinations of prominent party leaders such as Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer and Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti, who were killed in 2011 for their opposition to misuse of the country’s controversial blasphemy laws.

Still, says journalist Sohail Warraich, the author of an extensive tome on the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and who was on stage as Bhutto Zardari spoke on Thursday, “You have to know how to handle people. Both Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto made their way [in] politics” by proving they had what it took to govern, he says.

Mr. Warraich acknowledges there are many challenges ahead for the aspiring politician, despite his name and because of his name: He still has to answer for the PPP-led government’s failures in governance.

“Even abroad, you see the Kennedy family etc, people do have these feelings of attachment toward them [family names]. But the real test is in politics. Benazir, after 1988 [when she became prime minister], was assessed on how she conducted politics, not just because of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto,” he says. “Bilawal will also be tested on the same.”

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