Michigan Pakistanis Sound Off About Bhutto Assassination
By Sadaf Ali, MMNS
Southfield-January 22: Parliamentary elections in Pakistan will now be held on February 18th 2008. The six-week delay was prompted by the rioting that followed the death of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. But for Pakistanis living here in Michigan, Bhuttoâ€™s death only brings to light the violence and corruption that has ruled their country since the beginning.
Many Pakistanis living abroad also fear for the welfare of relatives in Pakistan, such as Muhammad Naeem.
â€œWe are scared for our families because the situation there is not safe,â€ said Naeem, a physical therapist.
â€œOur country is in complete chaos,â€ said Najm Khan, an accountant, â€œThereâ€™s hardly any governance in the Northern Province. Itâ€™s practically a civil war out there.â€
In Karachi, angry demonstrators reportedly burned a local hospital, a gas station and numerous vehicles. Violence alsoÂ broke out in Lahore, Multan and Peshawar, where Bhuttoâ€™s supporters burned banks, state-run grocery stores and private shops. Others set fire to election offices for the ruling party, according to Pakistani media. In addition, a railway station was attacked and looted.
â€œPakistani people are crazy,â€ said Khadim Hussain, a physical therapist, â€œThey are destroying their own country. They are foolish.â€
â€œWhat does the looting of banks and attacking a railway station have to do with the assasination of Benazir Bhutto?,â€ said Naeem.
However, before Bhuttoâ€™s death, Pakistan was in a state of inflation crisis. According to local residents in Karachi, the costs of staple items such as wheat flour and rice have increased drastically, making it difficult for the poor to afford them. Problems have been compounded by crop failures in the northern hemisphere and an increase in demand from developing countries.
However, members of Pakistanâ€™s government say there is no lack of wheat supplies and blames distribution problems and hoarders, as well as smuggling by suppliers.
Pakistanis consume an estimated 22 million tons of wheat annually, and last seasonâ€™s yield was more than 23million tons, according to Pakistani officials.
However, Khan says this situation was not caused by former President Pervez Musharrafâ€™s government, which he feels was progressive.
â€œThe rising inflation is due to the mistakes of the previous government, plus the rising cost of oil is a big contributor,â€ he said.
Khan also says that rather than moving towards industralization, Pakistan should focus more on farming.
â€œBenazir once said that Pakistanis should make their primary livelihood from farming. Not only could they feed themselves, but they could sell the excess for a profit,â€ he said, â€œThe idea of working in a office and not being able to do anything with your hands is not going to be very long lasting.â€
As for the future of the country, Naeem remains optimistic.
â€œIt looks like the popele are learning from the past so they can only get better. Not only do they need to work hard, but they need good leadership,â€ he said.
However, Hussain does not see any major improvements in the future.
â€œThe new government will just be a changing of faces. If you want to improve the country donâ€™t just change the faces, change the system,â€ he said.
â€œIâ€™ve seen two governments headed by Benazir Bhutto. These people have nothing to do with the poor people of Pakistan,â€ said Khan.
â€œBenazir used to say, â€˜I know your pain.â€™ How did she know what pain was? Had she ever been hungry or seen a family member surcumb to disease because they couldnâ€™t afford medicine.â€