Bhutto supporters pin hopes on son and heir


KARACHI: December 31, 2007. (Reuters) - There is an eerie quiet at Benazir Bhutto- Karachi home-cum-campaign headquarters where grief is giving way to hope that her legacy will live on through her son and heir.

Crowned her political successor on Sunday, 19-year-old son Bilawal will not be eligible to run for parliament for another six years, but banker and party stalwart Haseeb Ala can wait. "Truly, Benazir left a great vacuum," said Ala, 48, sitting under an awning outside the towering fortress-like walls of the Karachi home Bhutto named after her only son. "But the Bhutto name is a legacy. It`s a binding force, because of their sacrifice. He is the future." Behind him, a collage of campaign pictures depicting the iconic image of Bhutto wearing a white headscarf covers thick metal security gates to the family compound. Inside, the door to office remains locked, her papers and belongings just as she had left them before her assassination after a political rally in Rawalpindi on Thursday. A tapestry adorning the wall depicts Bhutto and her father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, first popularly elected prime minister, who was executed in 1979 by a military ruler. Upstairs hangs an oil painting of her aged 19. CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK? At the same age, fresh-faced Bilawal showed himself assertive and composed on Sunday as he was unveiled as party chairman. "The party`s long and historic struggle for democracy will continue with a new vigor," he said. "My mother always said, democracy is the best revenge." But is he destined to follow his mother and grandfather into the role of prime minister? "Time will tell," Ala said. "But I can tell you this. His eyes spoke truth." Renamed Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Sunday to carry on the family name, the party`s new hope has spent most of his life abroad as his mother opted for self-imposed exile rather than face corruption charges she says were politically motivated. He is set to return to Oxford to complete his degree, with his father, co-chairman of the Bhutto dynasty`s Pakistan People`s Party Asif Ali Zardari, carrying the torch in his absence. "Bilawal has a very good sense of humor, he is a gentleman, he has talent. He will fill the vacuum," said party acolyte Tariq Khan, who worked in Bhutto`s media unit and is still based at Bilawal house. Nearby, a burnt-out car recalls the wave of violence and vandalism Bhutto`s assassination triggered, killing 47 people. Posters welcoming Bhutto on her return from exile in October still cover the streets in her neighborhood. "Bhutto is in my mind, hope is in my mind," Khan said. "Benazir wanted to see Pakistan become a democratic country and I will say Bilawal is very eligible. He will unite the country and bring democracy to Pakistan."

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