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Condemnation and sorrow, but little agreement on Pakistan's future after Bhutto's death

Condemnation and sorrow, but little agreement on Pakistan's future after Bhutto's death

The world denounced the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, with leaders and commentators paying tribute to a brave, if flawed, champion of democracy.
Opinion differed on her legacy and on whether elections aimed at restoring democracy to Pakistan could go ahead as planned.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy urged President Pervez Musharraf to proceed with the Jan. 8 national elections, though Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party has lost its charismatic leader.
The United States _ which had staked its hopes for Pakistan's stability on a Bhutto-Musharraf reconciliation and encouraged Bhutto's return from exile in October _ was more ambiguous. President George W. Bush called on Pakistan's people "to honor Benazir Bhutto's memory by continuing with the democratic process for which she so bravely gave her life."
Asked whether the United States was confident that Pakistan could stage an election in January, U.S. State Department spokesman Tom Casey said, "Well, we're going to see what happens."
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he had spoken to Musharraf and urged him to "stick to the course he has outlined to build democracy and stability in Pakistan."
"This was a cowardly terrorist act designed to destabilize democratic elections," Brown said. "The international community is united in its outrage and determination that those who stoop to such tactics shall not prevail."
Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the Jan. 8 election should go ahead as long as Bhutto's party takes part in it.
Hamid Khan, head of chancery at Pakistan's embassy in London, suggested no decision on the vote would be made until after the three days of national mourning declared by Musharraf.
"I think we really have to play it by ear and see how the situation unfolds in the next two to three days and then the government will take whatever decision is in the best interests of the people and the country," Khan told British Broadcasting Corp. radio.
Pakistan's other main opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif, said his party would boycott the elections.
Even if the vote is held, said Gareth Price, an expert at the Chatham House think tank, "the assassination is going to affect the legitimacy of those elections."
World leaders appealed for calm and held their breath to see whether violence triggered by the assassination would continue or fizzle out. Britain's Foreign Office warned citizens against all but essential travel to the country, as angry Bhutto supporters ransacked banks, waged shootouts with police and burned train stations in several cities.
Pope Benedict XVI condemned the assassination as a "brutal terrorist attack" and prayed that further violence would be avoided following Bhutto's death.
The United Nations Security Council summed up the world reaction by voting unanimously Thursday to condemn the killing and urge all nations to help bring those responsible for "this reprehensible act" to justice.
In India, which has fought three wars against Pakistan, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Bhutto was irreplaceable. "In her death, the subcontinent has lost an outstanding leader who worked for democracy and reconciliation in her country," Singh said.
Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai, who met Bhutto earlier Thursday in Islamabad, said he was "deeply pained" by the assassination of "this brave sister of ours, a brave daughter of the Muslim world."
North Korea's No. 2 leader and ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam sent a message to Musharraf on Friday, expressing "deep condolences" over Bhutto's "sudden demise," the Korean Central News Agency reported.
Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a telegram to Musharraf saying Bhutto's killing was "a challenge thrown down by forces of terrorism not only to Pakistan but also to the entire international community," Russian news reports said.
South African President Thabo Mbeki was among many who expressed confidence _ or at least hope _ that Pakistani authorities "would leave no stone unturned to ensure that the perpetrators of this heinous act face the full might of the law."
Prayers for Bhutto were offered at mosques across Britain, home to a large Pakistani community. In the northern English city of Bradford, the Pakistani flag and the Union Jack both hung at half mast above the town hall.
"People are very upset. I was really shocked yesterday when I heard the news," said Afsar Khan, 43, a worshipper at Birmingham Central Mosque in central England. "It's like when Princess Diana died _ I will always remember where I was when Benazir Bhutto died."
Analysts said it might never become clear who killed Bhutto _ Islamist militants, elements of the Pakistani military or security services hostile to Bhutto, or some combination of forces.
On a personal level, even Bhutto's many critics acknowledged her courage.
"She had plenty of physical courage, and refused to be cowed by threats from local opponents," left-wing writer Tariq Ali, who knew Bhutto for several decades and had long been critical of her, wrote in the Guardian.
Bhutto's friends acknowledged that her legacy was mixed. She was a champion of democracy whose two terms as prime minister were overshadowed by allegations of corruption. She faced death threats from al-Qaida and was a U.S. ally in the "war on terror" _ but her government had supported the Taliban in Afghanistan in the 1990s.
"She had a lot of flaws," journalist Christina Lamb, a friend of Bhutto's, told the BBC. "She admitted some of them in the end."
However, Lamb said, "Whatever her faults, I think she was the best hope for Pakistan."
A Pakistani enclave in New York was in deep mourning Friday, with candles, flowers and poster-seized photographs of the murdered leader on the sidewalk in front of a mosque where a vigil was held.
Bhutto represented Pakistan's "final hope" for democracy, said Saiyid Naqvi, an elderly Pakistani sitting in a folding chair outside the mosque. "I'm at that age when I can say it was the final hope."
And now?
"No hope," he sighed.


Updated : 2020-11-30 16:40 GMT+08:00