Oxford refute ban claim on Bhutto heir

Timothy Williams

The University has denied claims made by the Pakistani government this week that the son of the current President was banned from political activity while studying at Oxford.

Pakistani government sources said a University ban preventing Bilawal Bhutto Zardari from taking an active role in politics is to end this September leaving him free to begin a political career.

A ‘senior official’ told Pakistani newspaper The News International on Saturday: “Bilawal’s educational course will be complete in September, ending the university obligation not to be actively involved in politics.” After a meeting chaired by President Zardari, the government announced that Bilawal would take up political responsibility in the party from September with a visit to China with key party figures.

However, a University spokesperson said: “The Proctors are not aware of or involved in any such ‘ban’.”

“There is nothing in University statutes or regulations that stipulates that students cannot get actively involved in politics. Christ Church does not have a policy or ban on student involvement in politics either.”

Bhutto Zardari, who studied Modern History at Christ Church, is the son of current President Asif Ali Zardari and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. He has been touted as the heir to the Bhutto political dynasty since his mother’s assassination in 2007. A senior member of the Pakistan People’s Party told The Guardian last year: “It is not going too far to say that we consider him to be the best hope for Pakistan’s political future.”

Bilawal has been chairman of the ruling PPP since 2008 but has kept a low political profile while finishing his studies. Amid speculation he would enter politics last year, he chose to continue at Oxford with a law conversion course.

According to Pakistani law, Bilawal is still too young to stand for election but is reported to have eyes on running for office once he turns 25 in 2013. His mother, Benazir Bhutto, was the former Prime Minister of Pakistan and was once President of the Oxford Union.