Pakistanis in US show soft corner for Obama

Published Nov 02, 2012 09:06pm

US President Barack Obama. - Reuters Photo

WASHINGTON: After the prayers at one of the largest Eid gatherings in the Washington metro area, about a dozen young men got up and started distributing pamphlets supporting US President Barack Obama’s re-election bid.

Most people quietly accepted the pamphlets. Some even put the Obama-Biden badge on their coats. Then one bearded man got up and threw away the pamphlet and the badge given to him.

“I am a Republican,” he declared in Urdu and then repeated himself in English, although less than 25 per cent people in this large crowd were non-Pakistanis. “My values do not allow me to support Democrats because they back gay rights,” he said.

Some teenagers made a ring around him and started making fun of the only vocal Republican in the crowd. The man got so annoyed that he stood on a raised pavement and roared: “Remember, we are Muslims. We cannot support liberal values. We do not want our children to go astray.”

A few years ago, an emotive speech like this would have gathered a crowd around him, particularly in a mosque or an Eidgah.

But the times have changed. Now most Muslims, Pakistanis included, seem more concerned about their immediate problems, jobs, immigration reforms and acceptance in the larger society.

Although there have been no exclusive poll of Pakistani-Americans, recent surveys of Muslims living in America show that a vast majority of them supports Democrats. They believe that Democrats are more likely than Republicans to bring in the reforms they need.

And this is also obvious in the Pakistani community. Since the election campaign began early this year, about a dozen Pakistani-American organisations are actively campaigning for President Obama.

“Do not forget to register,” was the common message from groups like Pakistani-American Congress in the early stages of the campaign when most people believed President Obama would have an easy victory.

It changed to frantic appeals for votes for Mr Obama as the race tightened. “I believe most Pakistanis like President Obama but fear that like previous years, they may not come to vote,” says Syed Fayyaz Hassan, a Pakistani community leader in Houston, who is also a member of the Texas Muslim Democratic Caucus.

Mr Syed, however, acknowledges that this year their effort to register Pakistani-American voters has been very successful. “People are excited. There is a growing realisation that they need to participate in American, rather than Pakistani politics.”

Khalid Tanvir, a northern Virginia resident, noted that unlike Pakistan, where only 11pc respondents to a recent poll supported President Obama, most Pakistani-Americans want him re-elected on Nov 6.

Shahid Ali, a Chicago resident who watched all three presidential debates at the city’s famous Devon Avenue, said this year many Pakistanis also watched the debate.

“I never saw so many Pakistanis watching the debate before,” he said while pointing out that “Devon is the nerve centre” of the Pakistani community in Chicago, and “Devon is for President Obama”.

Devon has hundreds of Pakistani and Indian shops and restaurants where many people watched the debates.

But Republicans have their supporters among the Pakistanis too. Recently, BBC recorded a family discussion at the residence of Zulfikar Kazmi, a known Democrat in Woodbridge, Virginia. He expected it to be a smooth endorsement for Mr Obama as he believed that because he was a Democrat, his family was too. He was wrong.

As the debate began, his wife spoke out: “No, I am not. You never cared for my political views but I have my views too,” she said. “I believe Republicans are good for Pakistan, so I will vote for Mitt Romney.”

Mr Romney won over some Pakistanis in the last presidential debate on foreign policy. He described Pakistan as an important country and stressed the need for staying engaged with it.

Although Mr Romney also endorsed President Obama’s drone policy and pledged to continue the attacks if re-elected; his rhetoric reminded some Pakistanis of the Reagan and Bush days when Republican administrations strongly backed Pakistan.

“It is right though, is it not?” asked Zahid Khawja, a Baltimore, Maryland, resident after watching the third debate. “Republicans are good for Pakistan. I will vote for Mr Romney.”

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Comments (33) (Closed)

No hope.
Nov 03, 2012 11:17am
That maybe true but Pakistanis living in the US are more realistic then the ones living in Pakistan.Until you change your thinking,habits,bring balance in the way to think,it will remain the same.
N K Ali
Nov 03, 2012 06:12am
The mantra "yes we can" has failed miserably. The only promise he got through with a lot of squeaks and squawks is Obamacare, which is still to see implementation. He got in with the sympathy vote for the Afro-Americans and availing another chance to show that, "We Americans believe in a non-racial policy of peaceful co-existence." The Pakistanis seeing the dismal performance of the PPP government economically and the infernal law and order problem have decided to keep their mouths shut. "Discretion being the better part of valor." Salams
Nov 03, 2012 07:43pm
For Pakistan it makes no difference as to who wins the election in the US. This true for all Western including UK. For US Pakistanis though it is important to vote based on their local needs and party that is likely to give them representation which I. My opinion is likely to be the Democrats. Pakistan itself must look to move away from US influence by not taking aid.
Fauzi Mahmood
Nov 03, 2012 12:40pm
Who may ever win in USA, what is it for Pakistan? Will the things change on ground? It is we who has to win and spread love to be loved by others, seeing the situation today and how we react agaonst world I as Pakistani have my doubts. Who has to change USA/maghrieb the entire world or us, this should be the main debate in Paksitan politics.
Nov 03, 2012 02:02pm
It does not matter because every pakistani is not allowed to vote in US election.
Aqil Siddiqi
Nov 03, 2012 07:13pm
Ane people living abroads have open minds and courage to vote, who ever they like(Some thing I can not say about people living back home). Aqil Siddiqi(Canada)
Aqil Siddiqi
Nov 03, 2012 07:14pm
I agree with you.
Cyrus Howell
Nov 03, 2012 07:19pm
"The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter." -- Sir Winston Churchill
Nov 03, 2012 07:22pm
I have lived in nyc for more than 5 years and i can tell you, democrat or republican, americas foreign policy (afpak) is going to stay the same. Politicians dont decide foreign policy. They only implement it.
Nov 03, 2012 08:02am
Pakistanis in US dosent represent all pakistanis ..
Mohammad Siddique
Nov 03, 2012 06:21pm
Pakistanis in the US care about their day to day life and things happening here for them. Their care about jobs, healthcare, education etc. When it comes to foreighn policy Pakistani-Americans know that all countries have interests and not friends. If Pakistani and American interests allign, it does not matter whether the president is Republican or Democrat. It is as simple.
Nov 03, 2012 01:34pm
Republican or democrat, two sides of the same coin when it comes to Pakistan. You have to be naive to think any of these two parties are of any benefit to Pakistan......they all have the same agenda and foreign policy...that does not change.
Nov 03, 2012 01:15pm
In Bush days Pakistan was under the rule of General Pervaiz Musharraf,who imposed Martial law on Pakistan,that's why US "strongly" backed Pakistan.The democracy in Pakistan has sustained under the Obama administration because Obama in his Third Presidential debate clearly stated that he will always support democracy in other countries .So its Ok if some people of Pakistan like Romney because he will not care if Pakistan has democracy or not,he is business minded person and will be ready to support Pakistan even under the Army intervention in Pakistan instead of Democracy.
Nov 04, 2012 11:38am
Many of my Pakistani friends voted for Bush in the first election because Joe Liberman a Jew was running for VP on the democratic ticket. With the hatred towards Jews they voted for Bust then came 9/11 and the rest is history. Some of my friends were so narrow minded that due to a religion they voted against the party.
Nov 04, 2012 08:32pm
America constitution is based on Judeo-Christian values. You chose to make this country your home because their values gave you your rights as an AMERICAN to flourish. So please stop your hypocrisy and contribute to you adopted country. As Kenney said, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." Your adopted country already did a enough for you. It is payback time!!!!
Nov 03, 2012 08:36pm
Sarah, Republicans have always had a soft corner to Pakistan, Democrats on the other hand have been anti Pakistan. I am not saying that Republicans are in love with Pakistan but generally speaking they have been lenient and forgiving towards Pakistan. You might argue with me that each time there was a Republican President in the White House for some reason circumstances always made them tilt towards Pakistan but at least give the devil its due. As a Pakistani I would always choose a Republican over a Democrat but the chances of Romney outnumbering the US voters seems less probable regardless of what the media polls say.
Nov 04, 2012 03:03am
Better a firm believer like Obama whom you may disagree with on certain matters than a flip flop Romney who changes his statement depending where he is at.
Nov 04, 2012 02:30am
All republicans are not extremist, but the known haters in media & politics are all republicans. This is the main reason we support Obama.
Nov 04, 2012 01:49am
Most Muslims still think Obama is a Muslim as such they have a soft corner for him, Obama has not done much for the Muslims and in fact relations between the US and Muslim countries (excluding Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries) including Pakistan are bad .The war in Afghanistan rages on, the image of Muslims has not improved in America and the Guantanamo Bay fiasco still lingers on,Dr Aafia is still under arrest. the economy is still in bad shape.there.Romney is also not a good substitute but it seems he will be having a better policy towards Pakistan.But Pakistan should in any case try to stand up on its two feet.Like others have said the two parties are by and large are the same, they just seem to act differently to keep the two part system going.
Nov 04, 2012 01:36am
American-Pakistani's should take active part in local, state and national politics of USA. They have a lot to add to the political campaigns. As a Muslim, I find my values are more in common with the Republicans, but then Republicans are unaccepting of me as a Muslim. They are totally embedded to Judeo-Christian religion and any other religion is against their ethos. For me Democratic party is the 2nd choice, however, as Republicans do not accept me, I will vote Democratic tickets .
Nov 04, 2012 12:17am
(Quote) "they all have the same agenda and foreign policy…that does not change." That statement could apply as well to Pakistan.
Nov 03, 2012 11:59pm
I will vote for Republicans, no no I will vote for Democrats, no no I will vote for Republicans, no no no I will vote for Democrates .......
Nov 04, 2012 03:08pm
Do you remember Senator Larry Pressler and his infamous Pressler Amendment that was applied agianst Pakistan? He was a republican. I too used to think that Republicans were better for Pakistan, but no more. Republiccans have always supported military dictators in Pakistan, which has contributed to Pakistan's problems. Today's Republicans are worse, the party has been taken over by extremists who are racists, and hate Pakistan in general. At least Democrats are allowing Pakistan to try out democarcy, no matter how flawed.
Gulzar Ahmed
Nov 03, 2012 06:34pm
I am an American of Pakistani origin. I read the above article and comments. From my viewpoint, we must engage at grass roots level. Although I am supporting democratic platform, and was a delegate at the national convention, we must be attending both parties meeting and be present. Our absence sends a louder message, that we do not amount to anything. Talk is cheap. let us get involved. Whether you are a Republican or Democrat, be involved at local level. That is where everything starts.
Adnan Khan
Nov 04, 2012 07:53pm
aaaaaaanddd if tomorrow obama or whoever the other canditate is, sends a drone to a house in lahore faislabad or karachi that kills someones entire family neither obama nor the other guy will care .. or zardari for that matter .. bring musharraf back please he made us feel safe and proud
Nov 04, 2012 04:31pm
Republican represent the 4 R's. The Racists, the Rich, the Religious and the Retarded. Mind you, these 4 R's overlap quite a bit.
Nov 04, 2012 02:20pm
Republicans are good for Pakistan? lol. Spoken like a true illiterate. We need to educate our women so in turn they can educate their children. Republicans are war mongerors same as most of Pakistanis. In fact I will go as far and say Republicans and Taliban are two faces of same coin.
Nov 03, 2012 11:30am
Pakistani are naturally conservatives because of religion and this precisely is the reason they are not able to assimilate.
Nov 03, 2012 10:55am
Pakistanis like myself who live in the US are much more familiar with the difference between Republicans and Democrats, and that is why we support Democrats.
Nov 04, 2012 02:38pm
Sorry i never voted and will never vote for any one be in pak or us.How many Americans do not vote a lot?....i am one of them .I follow my conscious and happy with that.Thanks God i don' feel sorry for my good/bad judgement.And the life goes on and on...
Nov 03, 2012 10:02am
Pakistanis in the US who want Pakistan to have a greater voice in US politics should be joining groups like the above mentioned Pakistani-American Congress. It is by numbers alone that our voice will be heard.
Nov 03, 2012 09:59am
Of course not, just like how a Pakistani in Pakistan do not represent all Pakistanis. Also do not underestimate a expatriate's love for Pakistan.
Dr. Khan
Nov 03, 2012 05:17pm
Sandip@ dear Indian Friend....How ignorant you are. If you dont know, only US citizen are allowed to vote. Please take you Pakistani bashing somewhere else...You folks must say something, always negative about Pakistan Sarah.....I agree, but as pakistan -american living in thos counrty for past 30 years, I do support Obama He may not be good friend of pakistan, but he is much better than republican,