ISLAMABAD  -  Pakistan People’s Party Chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari Monday made his parliamentary debut around 11 years after taking over the party leadership in 2007 when his mother Benazir Bhutto was assassinated.

Bilawal was warmly welcomed and cheered in the National Assembly hall by the supporters. Would-be Prime Minister Imran Khan also posed for pictures with the young PPP chief. Immediately after taking oath as a member of the National Assembly, Bilawal said that PPP was a pro-democratic party and will never try to derail the system.

He said the PPP will continue its work towards strengthening of democracy in the country. “The sacrifices given by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto along with thousands of party workers teach us a basic principle that is to defend, protect democracy and stand by it,” he said. Bilawal vowed to struggle for the rights of the people and democracy.

At the 19 years of age, Bilawal, the son of Benazir Bhutto, had inherited the reins of PPP in December 2007. His father, Asif Ali Zardari also announced his son’s name change from ‘Bilawal Zardari’ to ‘Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.’

In order to take more interest in the party's affairs, Bilawal started participating in important meetings along with Asif Ali Zardari and other senior PPP leaders.

His political engagements increased in December 2011 when he took over the party's affairs following Zardari’s sudden and much-speculated-upon trip to Dubai on account of medical treatment.

In 2016, Asif Ali Zardari, a former President, announced that together with his son, he will contest the next general elections. When he took command of PPP Chairmanship, Bilawal had two major aims. One was to reorganise the political party to infuse new blood into the system and revitalise the spirit that people's party has been known for since Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s days. The second aim was to mobilise the party workers to play their role in the 2018 elections.

Bilawal made his parliamentary debut by signing the rolls at the first session of 15th National Assembly held here. At least 325 members of the lower house of the parliament also took oath.

PM-in-waiting Imran Khan, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz President Shehbaz Sharif, PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari, Khurshid Shah, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Marriyum Aurangzeb, Munazza Hassan among others attended the first session of the revamped House. After the oath-taking ceremony, the Speaker prorogued the NA session until August 15, when the new Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly will be elected.

PTI Chairman Imran Khan will face PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif for the office of the Prime Minister. The new premier will be chosen on August 17 while the oath will be administered on August 18.

Bilawal’s sisters Aseefa Bhutto and Bakhtawar Bhutto were overjoyed to see their brother entering the parliament 11 years after Benazir Bhutto’s death. She had remained the PM two times and as many times the opposition leader in the National Assembly.

Aseefa tweeted: “No words will be adequate enough to express the joy and pride we as a family and party feel today witnessing Chairman @BBhuttoZardari and @AAliZardari take their oath in Parliament #PPP #PPPfamily.”

Bakhtawar said: “Missing our mother Benazir Bhutto on this historic day. So much bittersweet joy 2 witness my brother @BBhuttozardari enter the parliament and take his 1st oath and could not be prouder of my father for his return to the parliament.”

PPP Vice President Senator Sherry Rehman, who is the opposition leader in the Senate, termed it a big day for the parliament. “(It is a) Big day for parliament today as new assembly takes oath with grace and dignity. Pure joy to see Bilawal Bhutto Zardari standing up to be counted in the opposition PPP frontlines in a House his mother led for two terms as first Muslim woman PM in the world and also as the opposition leader,” she added.