The corruption-tainted Zardari is not well-liked within the party and has many critics in the West
EVEN as Ms Benazir Bhutto's legacy continues to live on in the face of her son, her husband's new leading role in her Pakistan People's Party is causing ripples of concern.
Mr Asif Ali Zardari, 51, who shot to fame after his arranged marriage to Ms Bhutto, is generally blamed for many of her political misfortunes.
Some party insiders fear his appointment as co-chairman could cause the party to fracture.
'Zardari is not very much liked in the party. He goes for big hotels, world's best addresses. He wants to live like a prince abroad,' said longtime party activist Rafiq Safi.
The criticism drove home the severe challenges that the PPP, a diverse organisation which had been very much held together by Ms Bhutto, faces as it heads for the coming elections in Pakistan.
Ms Bhutto's party had on Sunday named her son, Bilawal, as its ceremonial leader and her widowed husband as the executor of its dayto-day affairs, following the wishes of its slain leader.
Since neither father nor son have registered as candidates for the election, neither can run or be named prime minister if the PPP wins at the coming polls.
Mr Zardari has said that Ms Bhutto's deputy, Mr Makhdoom Amin Fahim, who stood in for her during her years of exile, will be the party's candidate for prime minister.
The party's new leaders take over at an especially turbulent time for the country.
The challenge is made even harder by the controversy that dogs the older Zardari's political life.
Nicknamed 'Mr 10 Per Cent' for allegedly skimming off commissions on government contracts, the former Cabinet minister had spent eight years in prison on charges ranging from murder to bank fraud and corruption, and is blamed in some quarters for Ms Bhutto's twice being forced out of the prime minister's office over allegations of corruption and misrule.
Mr Zardari also has many critics in Western capitals, including Washington, which could further complicate US hopes that President Pervez Musharraf and the PPP might form a coalition that would unite moderate forces.
His appointment is also somewhat mired in controversy. Mr Zardari had said that in a will written on Oct 16, two days before Ms Bhutto returned to Pakistan - she had named the elder Mr Zardari as her successor as head of the PPP in case of her death.
But he had then appointed their son, Bilawal, as official chairman.
Some PPP supporters had pushed for Ms Bhutto's 51-year-old sister Sanam to take over, but she had reportedly refused to accept any responsibility in the party because of her family commitments in London.
Earlier, one party official had also said that Bilawal himself was not keen to inherit the loaded mantle of Pakistan's largest party.
And while his appointment as party chief is seen as less controversial, doubts have been raised about the 19-year-old's ability to lead.
While Ms Bhutto herself was groomed to lead the party by her father, it is unclear whether her son went through the same training.
Little is known about Bilawal outside the family.
Born in 1988 - just before Ms Bhutto first became prime minister - the Oxford history student spent most of the past eight years living with his family in the UAE.
On Sunday, while his father addressed the media in the local Urdu language, Bilawal spoke only in English, raising questions about his facility with Pakistan's national language.
He has, however, apparently received some coaching.
Senior party official Rehman Malik said Ms Bhutto had asked him to coach her son in the basic workings of politics and government, from teaching him how to assess others to taking him to the halls of Parliament.
'She has groomed up her husband,' he said. 'She was grooming her son also. She was telling me many times he will grow up and take over the party.'
The pressure to keep the party's leadership in family hands reflects the unorthodox nature of the PPP as a party for the impoverished masses that is largely run by a collection of wealthy landlords - the Bhutto family being by far the most prominent.
It also mirrors an abiding dynastic streak that appears to run through much of South Asian politics.
'There is something wrong with the region,' said former party official Makhdoom Khaleeq Zaman. 'It is not very democratic.'
ASSOCIATED PRESS, LOS ANGELES TIMES-WASHINGTON POST, NEW YORK TIMES