Benazir Bhutto's girl gets elected at Edinburgh University

FOR most freshers, the first few months at university are a whirl of drinking, socialising, and generally breaking the leashes that tied them to home.

For Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari, however, things were always going to be different.

The 18-year old daughter of assassinated Pakistani politician Benazir Bhutto has made her first move into student politics within weeks of beginning her studies at Edinburgh University, being elected as a first year representative.

The English literature student came second of 28 candidates in an election to vote 20 first year undergraduates on to the Student Representatives Council of Edinburgh University Students' Association (EUSA).

It is understood that her entry for the ballot was only submitted two days before the deadline, but she nonetheless received 129 first round votes out of 1299 cast in Thursday's online poll, coming second to Alasdair Johnstone, who received 160 votes after standing on an election address composed entirely of sexual innuendos.

He said: "I was surprised at the fact that I did so well. It was a bit of a joke to start with, but I'm taking it quite seriously now. I looked up the Bhutto family and it was a bit unnerving, really."

The election will fuel speculation that Ms Bhutto Zardari intends to follow in her parents' footsteps – Benazir Bhutto became President of the Oxford Union in 1977 when she was herself a student. Ms Bhutto Zardari's father is Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.

Despite her tender years, it is not Ms Bhutto Zardari's first foray into political life. After her mother's assassination in December 2007, she became head of the women's section of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), as her brother Bilawal was elected party co-chairman.

Her election is not the only thing that has marked out Ms Bhutto Zardari's arrival at university as unusual. While most parents were out buying new kettles and bedsheets for their offspring before bidding them a teary farewell at the door of the halls, her father had a different mission.

Having travelled to the UK to settle her in at university, his stay was interrupted by a visit to London where he met Prime Minister Gordon Brown to discuss cross-border incursions by US forces into Pakistan.

The trip came shortly after Ms Bhutto Zardari had attended his swearing-in ceremony in the presidential palace in Islamabad on September 9.

President of EUSA Adam Ramsay declined to discuss Ms Bhutto Zardari's election, but said the election had excited great interest among students.

"We had a more-highly contested first year election than we've had in a long time and certainly a higher turnout than last year," he said.

Another English literature student at Edinburgh University who is involved with student politics, but did not want to be named, said: "To have such a high profile name on the Student Representatives Council is a real boost to student politics."

Ms Bhutto Zardari would not comment on her election as she attended the first meeting of the student council yesterday.