Son of late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto is Pakistan’s new foreign minister | Political news
Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, 33, is the scion of Pakistan’s most influential political dynasty.
Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has appointed Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, son of slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, as foreign minister, giving his coalition ally a leading role in mending frayed ties with the United States and other Western countries.
On Wednesday, President Arif Alvi was sworn in to Oxford-educated Bhutto-Zardari, a descendant of the country’s leading political dynasty.
His mother Benazir was murdered during a campaign rally in 2007, and his grandfather Zulfikar Ali Bhutto – also a former foreign minister and later prime minister – was hanged by a military dictator in 1979.
Benazir’s killer was never caught and a United Nations investigation found that Pakistani authorities failed to protect her or properly investigate her death.
At just 33, Bhutto-Zardari becomes one of the world’s youngest foreign ministers, but inherits a diplomatic bag of problems that began long before he was born, including relations with rival India.
Bhutto-Zardari, leader of the Pakistan People’s Party, said in a Twitter post that he was “honoured” and honored to be sworn in as foreign minister.
He and his party “will play our part in restoring democracy, enacting electoral reforms, fighting for a fairer economy and making Pakistan’s case on the world stage,” he wrote.
honored and humbled to be sworn in as Minister of Foreign Affairs in the 🇵🇰 National Unity Government. The PPP, as the second largest party in the coalition, will play our part in restoring democracy, enacting electoral reforms, fighting for a fairer economy and making Pakistan’s case on the world stage. pic.twitter.com/vkaIWkSN7x
— BilawalBhuttoZardari (@BBhuttoZardari) April 27, 2022
Bhutto-Zardari became party leader aged 19 while studying at Oxford, after his mother was murdered.
With more than half of Pakistan’s population aged 22 or younger, Bhutto’s social media acumen is also a hit with young people, though he is often mocked for his poor command of Urdu, the national language. .
Political commentators have mixed views on Bhutto’s abilities – or how long he can maintain good relations with Prime Minister Sharif of the rival Pakistan Muslim League-N party.
“I believe it is an untested missile,” analyst Hassan Askari Rizvi told AFP news agency.
“It is too early for a young MP like Bilawal Bhutto…and it will be difficult for him to deal with the problems facing Pakistan, with serious challenges on the external fronts.”
Fellow analyst Farzana Bari disagreed.
“I think Bilawal is smart enough to hold the fort,” she told AFP, adding that he was “more progressive” than the leaders of other political parties.
First foreign mission to Riyadh
Bhutto-Zardari’s first foreign mission will accompany Sharif on Thursday to Saudi Arabia, a key trading partner and a regular source of relief for Pakistan’s struggling economy.
Sharif announced a 41-member cabinet after taking over from ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan earlier this month.
Khan alleged that the United States supported a plot to overthrow him simply because he refused Washington’s advice not to visit Russia in February, a charge Washington denies.
Pakistan’s foreign ministry, military and civilian leaders have also dismissed Khan’s claims.
The trip to longtime ally Riyadh, which begins on Thursday, is Sharif’s first international visit as prime minister.
A statement from Sharif’s office said he would hold talks with Saudi leaders “with a particular focus on advancing economic, trade and investment ties and creating greater opportunities for the workforce. Pakistani in Saudi Arabia”.
The two sides will also discuss a series of regional and international issues of common interest.
Sharif is likely to seek financial support from Saudi Arabia to help build up the country’s foreign exchange reserves, which have fallen to $10.8 billion, barely enough to pay for two months of imports.
Sharif’s new finance minister, Miftah Ismail, said Pakistan was facing widening budget and current account deficits, falling foreign exchange reserves and high inflation.