Bilawal steps up

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Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the Christ Church undergraduate who has been made leader of the Pakistani opposition, returned to Oxford on Wednesday nignt.Following the assassination of his mother Benazir last month, the 19 year-old history student must transform from a normal, down-to-earth student into a world politial figure.Bilawal has assumed the position of Chairman of the Pakistani People’s Party, whilse his father Asif Ali Zardari will run the party on a day-to-day basis.As the profile of Bilawal increases, police and University staff have been drawing up new plans to ensure his safety. Thames Valley Police are known to be conducting meetings with MI5, and there are reports that they may assign Zardari a personal security officer from Chequers, the Prime Minister’s second home.Bilawal has been moved to new accommodation in Christ Church, and students have been warned not to talk to journalists, several of whom were evicted from college premises last weekend.Speaking for the Thames Valley Police, Toby Shergold said, “We have had suitable security plans in place since Bilawal Zardari began his studies at Oxford University. A threat level is decided, and can change, according to the environment in which the protected person is at any time and also the capability of any group to carry out an attack. Therefore, in light of developments in recent days, the force is liaising with national security services in order to review the arrangements if and where necessary.”The University refused to discuss whether they or the Government would be funding the security of Bhutto Zardari. A spokesperson said, “We take the safety of all our students, including high-profile or high-risk students, extremely seriously. We cannot discuss individual students or arrangements but we keep security under review.”Speaking in London at a press conference on Tuesday, Bhutto Zardari appealed to the media to respect his privacy as he completes his degree, after which he will take up full-time leadership of the party, saying that he feared for his privacy more than his life. He said, “My immediate priority is to return to Oxford to continue my studies. Unless I can finish my education and develop enough maturity I recognise that I will never be in a position to have sufficient wisdom to enter the political arena. When I am at Oxford I hope I can be left alone.”Last term, Bhutto Zardari had been using the pseudonym ‘Bilawal Lawalib’ on his Facebook profile (Lawalib is Bilawal spelt backwards) but revealed his identity if asked. He uses his real name in college, and his parents came to help him unpack at the start of last term like any other student.One Christ Church student said that his background was unknown to many. “I didn’t even know that he was Benazir Bhutto’s son,” said Flo Graham-Dixon. “I had no idea who he was. A down to earth nice guy.”Unlike his mother, who was a social butterfly during her time at Oxford, Bilawal is said to be relatively uninterested in the world of university politics. However, before coming up to Oxford he interned with Alan Duncan, Shadow Business Secretary and friend of his mother.Duncan said of him, “He seemed to me quite reserved, dutiful and steeped in the cause of the family. There are moving echoes of what happened to Benazir when she was at Oxford, when her father was deposed and hanged. She rose to events and I have no doubt that Bilawal will do so too.”

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