Her untimely death has also thrown U.S. plans for stabilizing the country's fragile government into disarray."Our great leader has been lost," said an emotional Sarwar Chaudhary, head of the New York State branch of the Pakistan People's Party, which Bhutto headed. "We have had a great loss for the forces of democracy and modernization."The 54-year-old politician returned from exile in London to negotiate a power-sharing deal with Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, in October, but those talks broke down after Musharraf imposed emergency law for several weeks.Bhutto was killed at a political rally attended by hundreds of her supporters near the capital city of Islamabad, though it is not clear whether she died from an assailant's bullets or a subsequent suicide attack. More than a dozen others were also killed.The Pakistani government pinned blame on Al-Qaeda, which has launched a series of devastating suicide attacks across Pakistan the past six months.Immigrants in Queens who hail from the subcontinent expressed surprise at Bhutto's killing, although some said her frequent public appearances were ill-advised."It's a sad event. It makes me very sorry to hear it," said Ainul Haque, director of the Muslim Foundation of America, headquartered in Astoria.While Haque said he suspected Pakistan's president and former army general Pervez Musharraf would bear the brunt of the blame because he heads the country, he also said Bhutto exposed herself by taking so pro-American a stance."She issued certain pro-U.S. statements people don't like," he said. "People do not support U.S. policy there."Mujeeb Lodhi, editor of the Jamaica-based Pakistan News, said Bhutto's death may prove disastrous for the country."The future of Pakistan is very dark. It's going to be a miracle if people can control their emotions," he said. "The people are out on the streets...because she was the only leader who could save Pakistan's future," Lodhi said.As of Sunday, rioting largely led by members of the Pakistan People's Party had resulted in 47 deaths, but no widespread pandemonium.Lodhi predicted the national elections, which were scheduled to be held on Jan. 8, would be postponed.Abu Taher, editor of the Long Island City-based Bangladeshi newspaper Bangla Patrika condemned the attack as a "heinous crime.""You may not agree with someone's political philosophy, but that does not mean someone should be hurt or killed," he said.He recalled Bhutto from his reporting days in Bangladesh."She was a very talented person," Taher said. "As far as I understand, she was committed to a democratic Pakistan."Bangladesh comprised the eastern half of Pakistan, flanking India's eastern border, until the 1965 Indo-Pakistani war during, when it seceded because of western Pakistan's political repression.In the center of Jackson Heights' heavily South Asian commercial district, store owners expressed both sadness and skepticism over the assassination."She was a good lady. I was very surprised about what happened," said the chef of the Bangladeshi-owned restaurant Deshi Biryani, giving only his first name, Haque.Haque's co-worker, however, said the killing came as no special shock to her."The politics are really, really dirty," she said, declining to provide her name. "I was not surprised."A Pakistani manager of the 37-07 74th Ave. clothing store, India Sari Place, likewise lamented the state of his homeland."There have been a lot of disturbances in Pakistan," said the man, who did not provide his name but said he has lived in the United States for 28 years.He added that Bhutto was too keen on grabbing power - she and her husband were indicted on corruption charges after her tenure as prime minister - and paid the price for overreaching. "Everything goes upside down when people go after power," he said.Tahir Kamil, owner of the 37-66 74th St. Pakistani restaurant Big Kababish, took a different view."This is a common complaint," he said of corruption charges. "When someone is not in power, people cry for them, and when they are in power, they talk about corruption."Kamil, who immigrated 10 years ago, said he did not tilt toward either Bhutto or Musharraf but considered the former a "brave leader of Pakistan" for denouncing fundamentalists."They are not real Muslims. This is not Islam to attack the innocent," he said of Al-Qaeda as TV screens in his restaurant carried satellite feeds from a Pakistani news channel.U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, said the attack did not augur well for American policy."To say we are thrown off kilter is an understatement," said Ackerman, who also alluded to a line in the recent film, "Charlie Wilson's War," in which the protagonist says, "We always f----- up the end game.""On this one, we have no end game," the congressman conceded, saying he doubted a politician of Bhutto's caliber would surface anytime soon.Ackerman also said American aid was too geared toward helping Pakistan's military elite rather than the masses, thus emboldening Al-Qaeda."If [American aid] money went more to the common man, we'd see less discontent," he said. "That's how you give people hope instead of despair. You have to give people something to live for."Ivan Pereira and Nathan Duke contributed to this story.Reach reporter M. Junaid Alam by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext 174.
©2008 Community News Group
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