The first major job for Bilawal is seen as a major step leading towards the Prime Minister’s house Image Credit: Ador Bustamante/Gulf News

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari became the youngest Foreign Minister of Pakistan at the age of 33 when he took oath on April 27, 2022 in Islamabad.

There is enough evidence to suggest that the young man is capable to handle one of the most daunting jobs in the country with a diplomatic bag full of issues including the mammoth task of mending ties with US, Europe and above all India.

Bilawal is qualified to tackle all these issues and much more as he has a huge advantage of being the Chairperson of the Pakistan’s largest democratic party — Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

Being son of the late Benazir Bhutto — two-time Prime Minister of Pakistan and grandson of the late Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the former charismatic Prime Minister of Pakistan — Bilawal has been groomed to become a politician.

The first major job for Bilawal is seen as a major step leading towards the Prime Minister’s house. In this he will be following the footsteps of Benazir Bhutto and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who had also served as the foreign minister of the country from 1963 to 1967.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Image Credit: AP

Following a legacy

Bilawal was sworn in two weeks after he helped lead the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) alliance that ousted Imran Khan, paving way for his senior coalition partner Shehbaz Sharif to become the Prime Minister.

Just one day after taking oath, he set on his first mission as a foreign minister, accompanying Sharif to Saudi Arabia on April 28.

The new foreign minister is considered a progressive as he frequently speaks about the rights of the poor, women and the minorities in Pakistan. With more than half of Pakistan’s population aged 22 or below, Bilawal is a hit with the youth, though he is often mocked for his inadequate command of Urdu, the national language of Pakistan, but he never gives up.

Going forward, one of his biggest challenges will be to outshine his predecessor Shah Mahmood Qureshi — a seasoned politician who was also once part of the Bilawal’s political party but later joined Imran Khan’s PTI.

His second challenge is to maintain good relations with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif who was once an arch-rival of the PPP but now both the parties are part of the larger political alliance — Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) alliance.

Political pundits believe that Bilawal is skilled to handle the situation as he has been groomed by his father and former president of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari, who is known as the master of orchestrating political alliances to the best of his party’s interests.

Bilawal has little time to lose. He inherits a plateful of issues: mending ties with India, maintaining good relations with friends like China and the Gulf countries, and above all building ties with Russia, Iran and Turkey.

Benazir Bhutto
Bilawal moved to Dubai with his mother Benazir Bhutto at an early age and completed his schooling here Image Credit: Facebook

Groomed for leadership

Nevertheless, the Oxford graduate is intelligent enough to hold fort and negotiate his terms with the world leaders. Many have already started comparing the 33-year-old to his charismatic grandfather Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Bhutto Sr was known for his fiery speeches and bold stance in the international arena.

Though it is a mammoth task for Bilawal to fit in the big shoes of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the young man has shown his willingness to be the new ‘Bhutto’ — as he styles himself on his illustrious grandfather.

He is compassionate, always hears people out, gives weight to their opinion, and is always ready for disagreement or debate. He has a good grip on crucial issues — both national and international. Articulate and savvy, he can put across Pakistan’s point of view very forcefully.

Bilawal, who was elected to the National Assembly of Pakistan in 2018, has already made a mark in the parliament with his democratic values. To the outside world, he does not need to introduce himsel: he is already a well known entity. Now, it will be a test of his skills and political grooming.

His maiden speech in the parliament on the day when Imran Khan took oath as Prime Minister, earned him accolades. In his speech, he asked Khan to fulfil his promise of rooting out corruption, resolving water crisis and providing ten million jobs and 5 million houses to the people during his tenure. It was a speech, which set the pace for him to emerge as a political force.

Dubai connection

Bilawal was born in Karachi on 21 September 1988, just three months before his mother Benazir was elected as the first female Prime Minister of Pakistan. He got his early education at Karachi Grammar School and Froebel’s International School in Islamabad before moving to Dubai.

He attended the Rashid School for Boys in Dubai and received a black belt in Taekwondo. He also took his first driving licence in Dubai and has close friends in the emirate. Though, now he lives in Pakistan permanently, he is a frequent visitor to his plush family home in the Emirates Hills.

After schooling in Dubai, he followed in the footsteps of both his mother and his grandfather and applied to Oxford University, where he was accepted to study Modern History and Politics at Christ Church, receiving his degree in Bachelor of Arts.

Bilawal completed his education in 2010 but made his official political debut in 2012 on the fifth death anniversary of Benazir with an emotionally charged speech. He was also declared Tumandar (chief) of the Zardari tribe in May 2011, following the death of his paternal grandfather Hakim Ali Zardari. Bilawal has two younger sisters — Bakhtawar and Aseefa.