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Too young to stand – but he already wants to run the country: Son of assassinated Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto launches his career Fifth anniversary of his mother's death in gun and suicide bomb attackBilawal Bhutto Zardari, 24,could be key asset to his partyHis father rode wave of sympathy to become president in 2007But party is in trouble because of ailing economy and Taliban insurgency
23:18 GMT, 27 December 2012
The son of assassinated Pakistan prime minister launched a political career with a fiery speech today – despite still being too young to stand as a candidate.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, 24, addressed thousands of cheering supporters on the fifth anniversary of his mother's assassination in southern Sindh province, beside the family mausoleum.
His speech comes just months before national elections are due to be held. The minimum age for candidates is 25 so he cannot stand, but is likely to be a key asset for the ruling Pakistan People's Party.
Rallying cry: Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, left, addresses a crowd of thousands of Pakistan People's Party supporters on the fifth anniversary of his mother's death
Shocking story: Zardari, who has just finished studying at Oxford, is too young to stand in the elections – but his family history makes him an asset to the party
Fight on their hands: Zardari's father Asif Ali Zardari, right, rode a wave of sympathy to become president after his wife's death – but the ruling party is losing its hold
The party's popularity has plummeted since it took power nearly five years ago, as the country has struggled with a weak economy and bloody Taliban insurgency.
Before dawn today, dozens of militants armed with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons attacked two tribal police posts in Pakistan's northwest, killing two policemen, with a further 21 officers missing and presumed kidnapped.
Zardari was made chairman of the party after his mother's death but has remained largely in the background until now while he completed his studies in Britain, at Oxford University.
His father, President Asif Ali Zardari, also addressed the crowd in Garhi Khuda Bakhsh village today.
'I want to tell you that thanks to God he has completed his studies, but now is the time of his training,' he said. 'He has to study Pakistan, he has to learn from you and he has to work according to your thinking,'
The Bhutto family has played a prominent role in Pakistani politics for much of the country's 65-year history.
Not forgotten: Pakistani policemen stand guard on a roof at the site where former premier Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in 2007
Born to lead: Zardari was made chairman of the party after the death of his mother, who twice served as prime minister in the 1980s and 1990s
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari's grandfather, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, founded the Pakistan People's Party and served as both the country's president and prime minister in the 1970s. He was eventually hanged in 1979 after General Zia ul-Haq seized power in a military coup.
Benazir Bhutto twice served as prime minister in the 1980s and 1990s but never completed a full term.
Her governments were dismissed both times under the cloud of corruption allegations by presidents who were close to the country's powerful army.
She was killed in a gun and suicide bomb attack on December 27, 2007, shortly after returning from self-imposed exile to participate in national elections.
After her death, the Pakistan People's Party rode a wave of public sympathy to garner the most seats in the 2008 elections, and Asif Ali Zardari was elected president.
But the popularity of both the party and the president has fallen significantly since then as the government has failed to address pressing problems, such as Pakistan's shortage of electricity and stuttering economy.
Complex: Benazir Bhutto never completed a full term – her governments were twice dismissed under the cloud of corruption allegations by presidents who were close to the country's army
The government has also struggled in its fight against the Pakistani Taliban, who have killed thousands of people in attacks throughout the country.
Rasul Bakhsh Rais, a political science professor at Lahore University of Management Sciences, said it was not a surprise that the Pakistan People's Party had unveiled Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in an attempt to boost its fortunes in the elections, which are expected by June at the latest.
'This is Pakistan and dynastic politics is the norm,' said Rais. 'Bilawal is perhaps the only card left in the chest of the Pakistan People's Party.'
Both Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and his father sought to whip up the emotions of the crowd by shouting 'Long live Bhutto' and 'Bhutto is alive.'
Supporters waved the red, black and green flag of the Pakistan People's Party and held pictures of Benazir Bhutto and her father.
'If you kill one Bhutto, one thousand more Bhuttos will emerge,' said Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.
Shocking: Benazir Bhutto was killed just weeks after she returned to Pakistan after years in self-imposed exile to participate in the elections
He took a swipe at the judiciary, which has clashed with the current government, by asking why people arrested for suspected involvement in his mother's murder have yet to be convicted.
But some critics have questioned why Zardari has not done more to push forward the investigation during more than four years as president.
The president at the time of his mother's death, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, blamed the Pakistani Taliban for the attack, and five suspected militants are facing trial for alleged involvement in the killing. The Pakistani Taliban have denied the claims.
A Pakistani court issued an arrest warrant for Musharraf last year over allegations he played a role in the attack, which he has denied. Arrest warrants were also issued for two senior police officials accused of negligence in the assassination. Prosecutors accused one of the officials of failing to provide proper security for Bhutto and the other of cleaning the crime scene before evidence could be collected.
Rhetoric: Father and son tried to whip up the emotions of the crowd by shouting 'Long live Bhutto' and 'Bhutto is alive'
A UN investigation into the assassination said it could have been prevented and blamed all levels of government for failing to provide adequate security. It also accused intelligence agencies and other officials of severely hampering the investigation into those behind her murder.
The attack on the tribal police posts before dawn today took place in the town of Darra Adam Khel in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, government officials said. The town is near Pakistan's tribal region, the main sanctuary for Taliban militants in the country.
Security forces have launched an operation to try to recover the 21 missing policemen, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but suspicion will likely fall on the Pakistani Taliban.