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Terrorism & Security

Bhutto's party releases her will to bolster PPP leadership

The slain ex-prime minister's political party hopes to end the controversy over new party leader, Asif Ali Zardari, ahead of Feb. 18 elections.

By Julien Spencer / February 6, 2008

Benazir Bhutto's party, the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), released the slain former prime minister's handwritten political will Tuesday. It's a move that analysts say is an effort to bolster support for Ms. Bhutto's husband and the PPP's controversial new leader, Asif Ali Zardari, ahead of parliamentary elections on Feb. 18.

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The revelation came as unrest continued to bubble over in Pakistan with the Associated Press this week reporting nationwide violence.

On Monday, a suicide bomber attacked a bus carrying military personnel to the army's headquarters in Rawalpindi, killing seven people and wounding 37. The dead included a lieutenant colonel from the army's medical corps. On Tuesday, a blast wounded one person in an army district of the southern city of Karachi.

The PPP released the will as dissent grew against Mr. Zardari's leadership, writes leading Pakistani daily newspaper Dawn. In her will, Bhutto 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. He spent eleven and a half years in prison without bending despite torture. He has the political stature to keep a party united."

Following Bhutto's assassination in December, Zardari was made joint chairman of the PPP along with Bhutto's 19-year-old son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. With Bilawal currently a student at Oxford University, Zardari became de facto leader.

But he has proved to be a controversial figure, with claims of corruption swirling over him. While a government minister during Bhutto's time as prime minister, he became known as "Mr. 10 Percent."

Pakistani critics were quick to condemn his elevation to the party leadership in an editorial in Dawn.

The biggest challenge for Asif Zardari is more personal than political. He needs to get rid of his past for the sake of his future. In simple words the man is haunted by his friends, you know which kind. He must have reflected a lot on this issue in his eight long years in jail but to change your personality after half a century is easier said than done.

Following the disclosure of the will, PPP supports have called for an end to the divisive whisper campaign against Zardari and renewed unity as the party prepares to contest this month's parliamentary polls.

Calling Bhutto's decision to pass power to her husband a wise move, Pakistan's The News' editorial advocated closure.

With the release of the political will of the late Benazir Bhutto, the document which the opponents of the PPP were challenging as non-existent, some even alleging that it had been faked, the muted controversy over who should lead the party should now come to a rest. The will is written in her handwriting and there is nothing to suggest that she did not do it. It carries all the hallmarks of Benazir's love for the party, respect for the workers' struggle, their dedication, devotion and discipline for ZA Bhutto's mission and for a federal, democratic and egalitarian Pakistan.

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