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View from US: Serendipity is thy name!

November 25, 2012

As stiff as our Foreign Office is, surely it must have come face to face with ‘Lady serendipity.’ No, it’s nothing sexy. It is something you stumble upon by accident and can use it to your advantage. A happenstance, if you will. Seize the moment and make the first move, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar. ‘Ladies first’ rule is the way to go. Her country dislikes Obama as indicated in a recent BBC poll that showed 21 nations around the world polling for Obama’s re-election while Pakistan being the only country wishing Romney in the White House. Still, Khar can do some damage control. But first she needs a lesson in history and political science. A crash course in ‘Obama-PK-connect.’

The middle name is Hussein; his father was a Muslim; his mother lived and worked in Gujranwalla; his room buddy was a Pakistani; his best friends in Columbia were Pakistanis; he spent 3 weeks in Karachi; he loved Pakistani cuisine taught to him by his best friend’s mother; he mastered making keema and chicken curry.

And he is the only American who pronounces P-A-K-I-S-T-A-N correctly!

How desi can a guy get? It’s never too late to cash in on Obama’s special relationship with Pakistan. Why listen to Imran Khan and distance ourselves from the American president blaming him for the drone strikes. Why not blame our civil and military establishment for letting Americans use our airstrips from where the drones used to take off? Who are we kidding?

One man of Pakistani origin in UK has already cashed in. Playwright/journalist Rashid Razaq has written a play based on Obama’s college days when he lived in Harlem sharing a dingy and dirty apartment with an illegal Pakistani named Sohale Siddiqui. The year was 1985. The President and the Pakistani is an 85-minute play. It is directed by Tom Attenborough, grandson of film actor and director Lord Richard Attenborough, the mastermind who made Gandhi. The play opened on October 3 at Waterloo East Theatre in London. The last day of play was on November 4, just two days before ‘Barry’ got re-elected as the president.

This is what I call serendipity! Bravo Razaq.

It is 3am. Barry Obama and his roommate Sal Maqbool (screen name) are looking for a missing dog on the streets of New York. This is the opening scene. Razaq has brilliantly mixed fact with fiction to capture the audience’s imagination on how this young man of mixed parentage found a roof at the apartment of a Pakistani when he had nowhere else to turn to. Poor, tired, cold and hungry, Barrack Obama, arrived in New York from the West Coast, lugging his bags up the endless stairs to knock at Siddiqui’s door.

The rest is history.

In Dreams from My Father, Obama mentions a Pakistani roommate when he lived in 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.” Earlier, when Obama was at Occidental College on the West Coast, he had two Pakistanis as his best friends. According to 2008 New York Times report, Wahid Hamid, later became a vice president at Pepsico in New York, and had donated the maximum $2,300 to Obama’s first campaign. The second friend, Mohammed Hasan Chandoo, played host to Obama in Karachi when they were in college. According to NYT, Chandoo, who later lived in Armonk, New York, was a self-employed financial consultant. He too “donated the maximum, $2,300, to Mr. Obama’s first campaign.

But here’s the rub: Obama’s best friends may have been Pakistanis, yet our leaders routinely failed to impress President Obama in his first term. When he met President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani who came calling on him in Washington, I noticed their body language. The meetings were awkward, strained and discommodious. Obama made no secret of his disapproval of the two Pakistani leaders. I am no psychologist or political scientist, but my suspicion is that Obama, being a self made man, has no time for our leaders who thorough corruption, entitlement and wrongful means reach the very top of power.

Obama didn’t think much of President Musharraf either!

As Senator Obama, he strongly advocated that President George W. Bush distance himself from Gen Musharraf, who in the mind of Obama was a taker.

It now falls on the frail shoulders of young Madam Hina R. Khar to try reconnecting the lost links between Obama and Pakistan. Travelling back through the arc of friendship and familiarity that the US president must store in some remote corner of his heart and brain for Pakistan needs to be jogged gently.

America is now officially black, brown and white. “Well thank God Obama won,” a friend from Islamabad remarked. “Even though he failed to live up to expectations, which were unrealistic anyway, I think had he failed to make it again to the White House, then no non-white would reach there again for a 100 years”

Fox News is eating its heart out. Chief-racist-loudmouth Bill O’Reilly sounds devastated on Obama’s victory. He laments the end of “white establishment,” saying, “It’s a changing country. It’s not a traditional America any more. There are 50per cent of the voting public who want stuff. They want things. And who is going to give them things? President Obama. He knows it and he ran on it.” The fellow is referring to the blacks and Hispanics who in O’Reilly’s eyes are greedy, lazy parasites.

Not true! This election stands out as the most expensive, divisive, acidulously factious ever in the history of American politics. The most tweeted ever, to boot. The religious right, neo-conservatives, white supremacists and billionaires got smacked real hard when minorities – women, Latinos, blacks and coloured stood in lines for hours to re-elect Barack Hussein Obama as the 44th president of the United States.

Mitt Romney’s own son Tagg wanted to take a swing at Obama when the president called out his dad’s lies. What Tagg conveniently forgot was that his own dad had accused the president of lying several times during the presidential debates. Had Obama been white, Romney would have shown more respect to his opponent, instead of looking down at him, sneering and glaring in his face. Even Anne Romney told Obama to “grow up!”

The President and the First Lady endured racial slurs, abuse, insults and threats. Yet they maintained a dignified calm and composure.

Pakistan, you have a second chance at friendship. Don’t throw it away again!