At 33, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, a scion of Pakistan’s most influential political dynasty, is one of the world’s youngest foreign ministers.
Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has appointed Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, son of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, as foreign minister, giving his coalition ally a major role in mending frayed ties. with the United States and other Western countries.
On Wednesday, President Arif Alvi swore in Oxford-educated Bhutto-Zardari, widely considered a forward-thinking liberal politician and scion of the country’s leading political dynasty.
His mother Benazir was murdered at an election campaign rally in 2007, and her grandfather Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, also a former foreign minister and later prime minister, was hanged by a military dictator in 1979.
Benazir’s killer has never been caughtand a United Nations investigation concluded that Pakistani authorities failed to protect her and adequately investigate her death.
At just 33 years old, Bhutto-Zardari becomes one of the world’s youngest foreign ministers, but inherits a series of diplomatic problems that began long before he was born, including relations with archrival India.
Bhutto-Zardari, head of the Pakistan People’s Party, said in a Twitter post that he was “honored” and honored to be sworn in as foreign minister.
He and his party “will play our part in restoring democracy, passing electoral reforms, fighting for a fairer economy, and defending Pakistan’s case on the world stage,” he wrote.
honored and humbled to take the oath as Minister of Foreign Affairs in the government of 🇵🇰 National Unity. The PPP, as the second largest party in the coalition, will play our part in restoring democracy, passing 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 at age 19 while studying at Oxford, following the murder of her mother.
With more than half of Pakistan’s population aged 22 or under, Bhutto’s social media savvy is also a hit with young people, though he is frequently mocked for his poor command of Urdu, the national language.
Political commentators have mixed opinions about Bhutto’s abilities, or how long she can maintain good relations with Prime Minister Sharif of the rival Pakistan Muslim League-N party.
“I think it is an untested missile,” analyst Hassan Askari Rizvi told the AFP news agency.
“It is too early for a young MP like Bilawal Bhutto… and it will be difficult for him to handle the problems facing Pakistan, with serious challenges on external fronts.”
Fellow analyst Farzana Bari disagreed.
“I think Bilawal is smart enough to hold the fort,” he told AFP, adding that he was “more progressive” than 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. struggling economy.
khan has alleged that the United States backed a conspiracy to overthrow him only because he rejected Washington’s advice not to visit Russia in February, a charge Washington denies.
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry, military and civilian leadership have also rejected Khan’s accusations.
The trip to Riyadh, a longtime ally, which begins 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 Pakistani workforce in Saudi Arabia.”
The two sides will also discuss a variety of regional and international issues of mutual interest.
Sharif is likely to seek financial support from Saudi Arabia to help build the country’s foreign exchange reserves, which have fallen to $10.8 billion, barely enough to pay for two months of imports.
Sharif’s newly appointed finance minister, Miftah Ismail, has said Pakistan faces widening fiscal and current account deficits, falling foreign reserves and high inflation.