Pakistan

LAHORE (Umer Shami) – The rise of candidates like Donald Trump manifests a dangerous trend challenging the basic fundamentals on which American society is based. However every society in the world has a certain percentage of extremist elements and US is no exception.

People supporting Donald Trump does not represent the sentiments of the mainstream. These views were expressed by Mr Shahid Khan while addressing a media roundtable titled “Current Political Climate in the United States of America” organized at the residence of US Consul General Lahore.

Mr Shahid Khan, a distinguished member of the Pakistani-American community in Boston, Massachusetts and a prominent businessman, is also known for his close ties with the Democratic Party. He worked on the election campaigns of Senator John Kerry and Hillary Clinton and is well versed with the intricacies of US politics.

While addressing different concerns voiced by the participants over the unusual outbursts of leading Republican candidates during the course of their election campaign especially relating to Muslim Community, he said that it’s unfortunate that some of the leading candidates had turned to bashing of ethnic and religious minorities to gain political mileage.

However statistically these people represent a minority, he said. He explained that 25 % of the voters in US align themselves with the Republican Party and whichever candidate will win the nomination he may be able to secure around 30% of this 25%. “This makes them less than 10 % of the population, a number though significant but not threatening enough to destabilize the fundamentals of the society”.

He however agreed that these trends were dangerous and negate the principals on which American society was founded and flourished. “US is a secular country and everybody is free to practice his or her religion. Moreover the state does not discriminate against any sect, class or ethnicity. Everybody has equal rights”.

He also said that although there have been cases of violence against Muslims but these are isolated incidents. “Some people say that US society is gradually developing “Islamophobia” but its more a product of fear of terrorist activities and perceived fear of violence than anything else.

As a whole American society is very tolerant of religious faiths and there are a number of incidents where people of different faiths have come to the aid of Muslims”. He also said that on average Muslims are more affluent than an average American and it speaks volume about the economic opportunities available to them in US.

Mr Shahid also said that Hillary Clinton is perceived to be better equipped to deal with the challenges faced by the US society and as things stand right now her nomination by the Democratic Party is almost certain. When asked whether Hillary Clinton would like Donald Trump as an opponent, he replied that in that case Hillary has a definite chance of winning the presidency.

Commenting on the current state of Pak US relations he said that Pakistan must make diplomatic efforts to portray itself as a modern and robust democracy in US. “The term AFPAK means that Pakistan is clubbed with Afghanistan which is a war theater. That means we are being viewed in a context which relates more to security. We need to change that”.

He said that Washington is the Public Relations capital of the world meaning most of the countries undertake concerted efforts like hiring lobbying firms to advance their national interests. India is one glaring example. “Pakistan is an important country for US which is manifested by its huge diplomatic presence in Pakistan”. We need to understand the US system and work systematically to increase business and cultural ties, he added.

He also said that Pakistani community in US is very enterprising and vibrant but the need of the hour is to organize and utilize their potential for the good of the country. A cohesive policy needs to be devised to engage the community.

Mr Khan also said that Pakistani State has shown willingness and intent to face the menace of terrorist organizations at home, the capacity to do so is however questionable. Much more effort will be needed to satisfy the international community about our resolve to do away with terrorism in all its forms.