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Pakistanis in US express horror at Bhutto assassination, fear for the future of their homeland

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    NEW YORK — With shock and dismay, Pakistanis gathered around television sets in immigrant neighborhoods across the U.S. on Thursday after learning that their homeland’s opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in a suicide attack.
    Sharmen Talukbar, 32, who works behind the counter of a Pakistani fast-food restaurant in New York, sobbed uncontrollably as TV images showed Bhutto supporters in Pakistan burning buildings and tires.
    ‘‘I love her. It’s very sad, very sad,’’ said Talukbar, who came to the U.S. from Pakistan 10 years ago, settling among the more than 100,000 Pakistanis who call New York home.
    Abid Asghar, a waiter at a restaurant across the street who emigrated from Pakistan 12 years ago, lamented the negative attention he said the assassination was bound to bring.
    ‘‘This is very bad for Pakistan’s image abroad,’’ he said, adding that Bhutto never should have returned to Pakistan from exile in October.
    ‘‘She should not have gone back,’’ he said. ‘‘If you are an enemy you will be a target.’’
    Mayor Michael Bloomberg released a statement condemning the killing and expressing his sorrow.
    ‘‘Hers was a voice for democracy, and the silencing of it — by such brutal means — is a shock to us all,’’ he said.
    In Chicago, Syed Raza said he was driving his taxi when he heard on the morning news that Bhutto had been slain. Within an hour, he stood on a corner in the heart of the city’s main Pakistani neighborhood holding a small picture of her.
    He said he feared that without Bhutto, Pakistan will descend into chaos.
    Associated Press writer Michael Tarm in Chicago contributed to this report.

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