NEW YORK, April 10: Barack Obama, the front-runner in Democratic Party for the presidential nomination, has disclosed that he has many Pakistani friends and lived in Pakistan for three weeks in 1981 as a part of a college trip.
“I travelled to Pakistan when I was in college — I knew what Sunni and Shia was [sic] before I joined the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,” Mr Obama told his audience at a fundraiser in San Francisco, according to a report in Huffington Post.
Ever since Mr Obama weighed in on the Pakistan’s role in the US-led war on terror, his rival Hilary Clinton has cited her experience in foreign policy matters and publicised her meeting with over 80 world leaders and her travels.
Senator Obama claimed he had more world experience than his rivals, Senators John McCain and Hillary Clinton, and introduced a new bit of his trip to Pakistan and Indonesia.
“Foreign policy is the area where I am probably most confident that I know more and understand the world better than Senator Clinton or Senator McCain,” Mr Obama said.
“It’s ironic because this is supposedly the place where experience is most needed to be commander-in-chief. Experience in Washington is not knowledge of the world. This I know. When Senator Clinton brags ‘I’ve met leaders from eighty countries’ — I know what those trips are like! I’ve been on them. You go from the airport to the embassy. There’s a group of children who do native dance. You meet with the CIA station chief and the embassy and they give you a briefing. You go take a tour of a plant that [with] the assistance of USAID has started something. And then — you go.
“You do that in eighty countries,” Obama said, “You don’t know those eighty countries. So when I speak about having lived in Indonesia for four years, having family that is impoverished in small villages in Africa —knowing the leaders is not important — what I know is the people...I travelled to Pakistan when I was in college -- I knew what Sunni and Shia was before I joined the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.”
According to Mr Obama’s campaign staff, Mr Obama visited Pakistan in 1981, on the way back from Indonesia, where his mother and half-sister, Maya Senators-Ng, were living. He spent “about three weeks” there, Mr Obama’s press secretary Bill Burton said, staying in Karachi with the family of a college friend, Mohammed Hasan Chandoo, but also travelling to Hyderabad, in India.
Another news report said that Senator Obama appeared not to have previously cited his travel in Pakistan in speeches during the campaign. In “Dreams from My Father,” he talks of having a Pakistani room-mate when he moved to New York, a man he calls Sadik who “had overstayed his tourist visa and now made a living in New York’s high-turnover, illegal immigrant work force, waiting on tables.”
Mr Obama and his campaign managers have not provided any details about the identity of Sadik.
Mr Chandoo is now a self-employed financial consultant, living in Armonk, New York. He has also donated to Mr Obama’s primary campaign.