LONDON – LONDON (AP) — He was seen rubbing elbows with the leaders of France and Britain this week, but the son of slain Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto says he's not yet ready to follow in his mother's political footsteps.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who turns 22 next month, just completed a degree in modern history and politics at Oxford.
After he made rare appearances this week with his father, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, many speculated that he would address a rally in Birmingham on Saturday to officially announce his entry into politics and take his place as part of a political dynasty that helped build his country.
"This is not true," he said, adding that he would instead help collect donations in London for victims of Pakistan's deadly floods.
"As for my future plans, I intend to continue my education — both academic and political. I am currently looking into the possibilities of studying law ... I feel that an understanding of law and an appreciation for the rule of law is important for any politician seeking to strengthen democracy in Pakistan."
Bhutto's only son, and one of three children she had with Zardari, was educated mostly abroad and only speaks rudimentary Urdu. Articulate and armed with his mother's striking looks, he has kept a relatively low profile since entering Oxford, where his mother also studied.
Though he is the chairman of his mother's Pakistan People's Party, he now has little day-to-day responsibility in Pakistan — a situation that may change in the future.
"I do look forward to working with the media, the international community and most importantly the people of Pakistan in the future to achieve our shared goals of strengthening democracy in Pakistan and combating the forces of extremism that robbed me of my mother and threaten the world today."
The 21-year-old already enjoys greater popularity than his father, who has been plagued by allegations of corruption and spent many years in jail.
Analysts predict the Pakistan Peoples Party will suffer during the next national elections in 2013 partly because of Zardari's low approval ratings and the severe challenges currently facing the country.
Lawmakers must be at least 25 years old in Pakistan.
Benazir Bhutto's father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto —Pakistan's first elected prime minister and founder of the Pakistan People's Party — was hugely popular among the poor for nationalizing industries, building houses and handing out land deeds.
Like Benazir Bhutto who was assassinated on Dec. 27, 2007 in a gun and suicide-bomb attack during a political rally shortly after her return to Pakistan from nearly nine years in self-imposed exile, her father was hanged shortly after his ouster in 1979.
Their story is compelling to many Pakistani voters, who see their history as intertwined wiht Pakistan's own. Though he appears reluctant, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, is well-placed to take on the family tradition, analysts say.
"There is blood and sacrifice. There is the narrative of victimhood and also there is the perception of Bhutto heroism," said Rasul Bakhsh Rais, a professor of political science at Lahore University of Management Sciences. "This is all great potential to do politics in Pakistan."
Associated Press Writer Sebastian Abbot in Islamabad contributed to this report.