To The Contrary: Pakistan Needs Time To Take Stock

Pakistan needs time to heal before finding a successor to lead Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples Party. Now it seems Bhutto is speaking from the grave. Her family this weekend held a news conference announcing that her 19-year-old son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, was named chair of the party in her will. Her widowed husband will act as caretaker and cochair until Bilawal completes his studies at Oxford University in three years.

This might otherwise be well and fine, except that Bilawal is returning to Oxford to study and won't be running for prime minister. His father, Asif Ali Zardari, is way too tainted by corruption to run for office. He has served prison time on corruption charges. His nickname is "Mr. Ten Percent" for the way he is alleged to have demanded bribes from people seeking government contracts during Bhutto's second term as prime minister.

And that's all the more reason for a longer cooling-off period. Bilawal is six years too young to run for Parliament in Pakistan. At 19, he can hardly be considered a serious candidate for a nation riven by terrorism and possessing nuclear capabilities.

Bhutto's party was founded by her father, who served as Pakistan's president and prime minister before being hanged on murder charges by the military regime that deposed him.

The Bhutto family is large and extended and one of Pakistan's elite. Surely there is another caretaker in the group who could participate in Pakistan's upcoming elections while Asif Nardari made sure his son's interests were well-represented. Any national election without a PPP candidate for prime minister can't avoid being rather meaningless.

By Bonnie Erbe