Friday, December 28, 2007

UK Pakistanis express their shock

Watching shoppers browsing fruit and clothes stalls, it looked like a typical Thursday afternoon at an east London market.

But just one subject was occupying the stallholders on Queen's Street market in Upton Park - the murder of Benazir Bhutto.

The strength of feeling amongst the Pakistanis in the area was shown by how many people were willing to talk to the BBC News website. At times, they were queuing to voice their opinions.

Despite differing political views, they were united in two things - their shock at events and despair for the future of Pakistan.


Khalid Mahmood, a supporter of Nawaz Sharif, thought Benazir Bhutto was a good leader.

"I am very, very sad. It is very bad news, she was good for Pakistan. We are powerless now," he said.

"It is not good for the country, I don't feel safe to go back. Every day she had been on television, saying with Nawaz Sharif she was going to bring hope. Musharaff is behind it."

Abdul Khaliq was another in a group of men discussing events.

He called his nephew, Sadaf Rasheed on the phone in Karachi so he could describe what was happening there.

Mr Rasheed told the BBC News website: "It is really bad here. She was a great political leader. Everyone is at home, everything is closed. It is very sad for supporters of democracy and supporters of her.

"We don't have any vision now and everyone is wondering what will happen next."

Shehla Naz, 25, said her brother is a policeman who was on duty in Rawalpindi at the time of the killing. As soon as they heard the news she phoned home to check her family had not been harmed.

'Brilliant leader'

"She was a brilliant leader and most of the people in the country followed her," Ms Naz said.

"It is the end of the line. It has shocked us, it's unbelievable. We had been expecting her to become leader, expecting the country to grow more day by day.

"We are very upset and wondering what is going to happen, what is the future for Pakistan?"

Shahbaz Ahmad said he did not support Ms Bhutto politically, but had respected her as a leader.

"Politics in Pakistan has a different meaning. Here, in the UK, if politicians have something to say, they say it to the public. If you don't like what someone says, it doesn't mean you go and kill them. It shouldn't happen like this.

"When I heard this I had tears in my eyes, this is really bad. She was an asset to Pakistan. I don't support anyone, there is no one I am able to support in that country."

One man had less sympathy for Ms Bhutto. Hamid Sheikh, 17, said: "I am a bit shocked it happened. But this is what happens to corrupt politicians.

"Why did she go back there again? It was for power and money."

Mohammed Ariq, 57, said he did not support any of the politicians in Pakistan.

"They say Pakistan is free, but it's not free. It is going to get worse, not better. There are no human rights. Nobody there can make it better," he said.

Over in Southall, west London, Dalawar Chaudhry told the BBC News website the restaurant he runs had been full of diners when the news of Ms Bhutto's murder broke.

"People just couldn't believe it. They all left their tables and gathered round the TV set.

"There was an eerie silence at first as people took the news in - rather like when Diana, Princess of Wales, died. Then there was a public outpouring of grief with many people in tears."

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