KARACHI, Pakistan — At the family mausoleum in southern Sindh province, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, son of slain Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, made a major step forward in his political career with a fiery speech on the fifth anniversary of his mother's assassination.
Until recently, the 24-year-old Bhutto Zardari has played a background role in Pakistani politics, completing his studies at Oxford University in the United Kingdom. Thursday's speech, which was broadcast on television and radio across the country, marks his first political rally.
Standing in front of thousands of supporters of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Bhutto Zardari said that his mother, who had served twice as prime minister, had sacrificed her life to uphold democracy.
Benazir Bhutto died in a gun and bomb attack during her election campaign in 2007. Her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, is the current president of Pakistan, and her son Bilawal has been PPP chairman since her death.
Though Bhutto Zardari cannot contest an election until his twenty-fifth birthday, which falls next September, political pundits in Pakistan view his speech as a sign that Bhutto Zardari is on the precipice of taking over the dynastic PPP party.
"It appears to be the formal launching of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari into politics," political analyst Hasan Askari said, AFP reported.
Others in Pakistan say that Bhutto Zardari's speech is only a sign that the party is desperate for popular support. The governing PPP, led by Bhutto Zardari's father, has been highly criticized, especially for alleged corruption. Local television anchors said Thursday that moving a third-generation Bhutto to prominence so close to national elections can only mean that the party — founded by Bhutto Zardari's grandfather, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto — needs a revival.
Bhutto Zardari and his father also chose to highlight on the anniversary of Benazir's death that her assassins have neither been identified nor prosecuted. Both father and son have accused former Pakistani President Pervez Musharaf of bearing indirect responsibility for Benazir's death, saying that Musharaf sabotaged her security.
Though multiple investigations into Benazir Bhutto's death have taken place, no one has been charged in connection with her killing.
Here's a look at how Pakistan's Twitterati responded to the speech: