Pakistani-American Community & The US Elections

The election pitch continues to steadily rise in the US Presidential election. With nomination of Democratic Party Senator John Kerry almost a foregone conclusion, battle lines are being drawn. From the showing so far, a slugging election campaign seems a certainty. It is the time when all the supporters of both the candidates are expected to show hands.

Like rest of the mainstream America, others who are struggling to become part of the American milieu, are also bracing to be heard. One such community looking for recognition is the Pakistani-Americans. Since the last election so much has happened, mostly to their disadvantage, that this community seems determined to stand up and be counted.

In a close race, which seems to be on the cards, any block voting could make a substantial difference. Pakistani-American community appears to be cognizant of this and is trying to galvanize its resources to be taken seriously. In greater number than ever before they are participating in political process and fund raising activities. Which candidate is going to be the beneficiary of this new enthusiasm?

It is no secret that in the 2000 elections Mr. Bush had received majority of the votes of the American-Muslims and by extension of the Pakistani-Americans. 9/11 and the aftermath has radically changed the situation and quick to grasp this change is the Democratic Party. They are reaching out to this community by giving some positive signals pertaining to the core issues of the community’s disenchantment with the present administration.

Addressing a gathering of Pakistani-Americans, Jay S. Jacobs, Chairman, Nassau County Democratic Convention (NCDC) stated that discriminating against any community on the basis of race, religion or creed was “un-American.” He was addressing a function arranged recently by the Pakistani-American Democratic Club in Long Island, New York. According to him “diversity and equality for all is what America is all about.”
He was also critical of recent remarks made by Rep. Peter T. King (R. NY) against the American Muslims.

In the present state of affairs conciliatory remarks of Democratic Party leaders such as above definitely resonates with the community. The Pakistani community is looking for easing of the current grim situation, especially with regard to the harsher aspects of Patriot Act. Locally this appears to have become single most bane issue needing corrective measures. The Democrat’s are obliging by giving messages of change on this score, if they win the elections.

On the issue of future Pak-US relations, another important concern of the Pakistani community, the scenario is more complex. To start with there is a contradiction between the community sway towards the Democratic Party and the good relations President Musharraf’s government has with the present US administration. This is confusing and to some extent even divisive for the community.

Added to these two different perceptions is the division within the community based on back home political party lines. This has often resulted in chasm amongst the community, as was recently seen in a fund raising function.

A largely attended Pakistani-American Community fundraiser for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) was held in New York. Senator Tom Harkins (Iowa), Senator Jon Corzine (New Jersey) and Senator Charles Schumer (New York) attended the function. It was quite a successful function with all senators appreciating Pakistan government efforts in fight against terrorism and also promising to address the Pakistani community grievances.

When the organizers were called to address the gathering one official decided to address the internal political issues of Pakistani politics. This brought in protests from opponents and it appeared that some sort of pandemonium is in the offing. Luckily, things were brought under control, but it left a bad taste, especially because the Senators were watching the proceedings. Democracy does allow freedom of expression, but timing and relevancy is also of essence.

What it all boils down to is that the Pakistani-American community though looking to become an important player in the American politics is still grappling to get its act together as an effective and unified voice. There is really nothing wrong with this transitory progression, because this is what democratic process is all about. In due course, hopefully, things would be ironed out, as long as they understand the issues and most importantly are united on these issues.

Talking about the issues, this too needs to be made more realistic and responsive to the local environment. It does not appear from the present happenings that concern of security in America is going to become a backburner anytime soon, regardless of whoever is in power. This means that the community not only needs to voice its own concerns, but also show appreciation for the larger security apprehensions of the country and the willingness to assist wherever possible. Effective methodology needs to be evolved to achieve this apparently contradictory objective.

It is said that all politics are local. This is especially true for the minorities wanting to be assimilated in the society, as their concerns are mostly to do with integration in the local system. However, communities like the Pakistani-American have the added pressure on them for having to be responsive to the concerns of US external situation too. This necessitates a deft handling of the situation, and the Pakistani community especially their leaders need to keep that in view.