LONDON: Scottish Police threw a security blanket around the University of Edinburgh as Bkhtawar Bhutto-Zardari graduated in a ceremony of formality, pomp and show.
Watched proudly by her father, President Asif Ali Zardari, her aunt Sanam Bhutto and siblings Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Asifa Bhutto, Bakhtawar was declared a graduate of English literature, four years after joining the Scottish university.
Professor Sir Timothy O’Shea, Principal of the University, welcomed and thanked President Zardari and Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the UK Wajid Shamsul Hasan for attending the graduation event. He remembered Benazir Bhutto, slain former prime minister of Pakistan, and said were she alive today, she would have been proud of her daughter graduating from the university. As a mark of solidarity and respect, the students and staff clapped for a minute as Benazir Bhutto’s name was mentioned.
Hundreds of students and their parents attended the afternoon ceremony for the various subjects of “School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures”. An hour before the ceremony started, a large contingent of Scottish police arrived at the university and closed the roads for any kind of public vehicles and removed the parked cars from around the university. A Pakistani national present outside the university was searched and removed from the area and the police banned his entry into 2,000 radius meter across the university. It was not clear why the police took this step.
Bakhtawar – a hip-hop enthusiast and a fan of political rap music, known as Itty Bee to her University fellows — plans to return to Pakistan to help her father and brother in politics. She has no plans of pursuing her studies further. It is expected that she will be given a senior position in the party and could be fast-tracked to become a lawmaker and minister as soon as she reaches the requisite age level.
Earlier, President Zardari flew into the city especially for the graduation ceremony in a specially-hired luxury aircraft from the Farnborough airport, defying any impression that he has left behind a nation crippled with energy crisis, precarious security and dire economic situation. The president arrived at London’s Heathrow airport in a private VVIP jet on Wednesday morning.
The jet, which carried President Zardari, is parked at the Heathrow airport - costing £600 per-day on account of parking fee - for as long as the President stays in the UK – which can now be described as the Makkah of Pakistani political elite.
The luxury aircraft was booked by Pakistan High Commission at the rate of £20,000 for-a-day to take President Zardari, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Sanam Bhutto, Asifa Bhutto-Zardari, Wajid Shamsul Hasan and a few other blue-eyed high commission’s officials from London to Edinburgh, situated only at 40 minutes plane journey from London, for the graduation ceremony.
The President and his 40-members staff are staying at the 5-star Churchill, Hyatt Regency Hotel, in Central London. The president was planning to spend a week in London till the end of this month but due to the political turmoil at home, he had to cut short his visit.
The News is aware that efforts were made by Pakistani side to arrange a meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron but the Downing Street informed Pakistani side that PM Cameron’s diary was fully booked and the notice from Pakistani side was too short to fit a meeting.
The Pakistani side refused meetings with the other British ministers available. After this, the President and British Prime Minister spoke over the phone briefly and a statement was issued in which both sides re-affirmed their commitment with each other and resolved to work together in areas of concern.
Meanwhile, Rehman Malik arrived in London on Thursday afternoon on President Zardari’s special instruction. It is believed that President Zardari could meet Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Alatf Hussain on Friday or Saturday.
MQM’s Central Co-ordination committee members Mustafa Azizabadi told The News late on Thursday afternoon, “There has been no contact from the presidential side for a meeting. We will decide if a request is made.”
A spokesperson at the University of Edinburgh refused to comment on the security arrangements made for the Pakistani president. The university didn’t allow filming of the graduation ceremony. He added: “We never comment on matters dealing with security of individual students.”